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We have lived in Romania for 16 years now. We have 6 kids. The top photo of our family is the day we met the twins, just before their 4th birthday. We were granted custody of them on their 5th birthday.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Orphan Summit

We spent Thanksgiving at the Orphan Summit in Bucharest,  Romania. It was put on by ARFO, Alliance of a Romania Without Orphans. I was a little leary of being away from home for Thanksgiving but we knew we wanted to be more involved in the important work of orphan care in Romania so we signed up to go. We are so thankful that we went, it was worth missing Thanksgiving at home. We came away with so much good information.

I am going to change to I and write from my perspective. David and Jayne Schooler were there from Back2back ministries and many other wonderful speakers including two young men who grew up in the Romanian Child Protective Services. I have been reading and educating myself alot on kids/people with trauma in recent months but hearing all of this information from experts just affirmed that I want to help these kids. I will start by saying, God is working on my to not beat myself up for my failures and lack of knowledge with Joey and Gina. I am seeking God to help me be emotionally healthy and move forward so that I can help kids who come from really hard places and sometimes display really ugly and scary behaviors. One thing I was trying so hard to do with Gina was change her behavior and that was an impossible task because her behavior was a cry for help. She did not need me to punish or judge or get upset with her, she needed me to assure her that she was safe with me, she could trust me, she could heal and learn a better way of expressing her anger but instead I became emotionally drained and would get upset. Our behavior comes from what we believe and instead of trying to change someone's behavior we need to change their belief system. The problem is kids from traumatic backgrounds believe lies; they have been treated as if they are worthless, not important, unseen, unheard. The neglect of being abandoned by the person who should have most cherished and protected you has a great impact on a child. I think many times as Christians we counsel people to just press forward and forget what is behind you and that is wrong counsel. Our past is part of who we are and part of our story that we must deal with before we can move forward. Belief systems start in utero, an unborn child knows if he is unwanted. As Dr. Schooler said, "our biography influences our biology."  So many times, I would forget about Gina's past and just be so angry at how she was disrupting my life. I want to post a video that I hope you will take the time to watch...it is 33 minutes but well worth watching if you want to understand the hurt of an angry child. It is called Removed: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qvqRI1Wjn14

I want to encourage Christ followers to follow the Father's heart for orphans and adopt. If you don't adopt, then provide respite care for foster/adoptive parents, be a big sister or brother for a child in foster care, invest time in listening, really listening to an adopted or foster child.  You do not have to be a professional to listen to someone's story and show you care but listening with intent to understand them. Don't listen with the intent of thinking about an answer to give them, just listen. When you listen to someone tell their story the brain starts to heal. Dr. Schooler said this was a scientific fact. Learn the power of listening, to see someone, to hear someone. Even if you don't have answers just listening starts the healing process.

I look forward to seeing the twins next weekend. I look forward to them coming home, very soon. I believe we are in a better place to help them. I believe God wants them back in our home.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Life is Hard, but God is good.

     The choice to send your troubled children away to get help is not an easy choice. Baron got to the place where he knew we needed to get them help outside of our home before I did. The choice for a mother to know she can not raise her child/children and someone else needs to intervene is a difficult place to be. I know we made the right choice, but not a day goes by that I don't hate the choice we made. Walking on God's path does not always mean "liking" all the plans God has for you, but I have learned to accept his plan. I have to daily look to God and the truth and let go of feeling guilty, feeling like a bad mother, feeling like I should have been able to handle it. I often wondered what it meant to have peace in the middle of a storm and now I know. It isn't this wonderful joyful feeling, but it is a feeling of hope in the midst of what looks hopeless. It is being able to sleep at night instead of thinking that your house feels emptier than it should. It is going on and living life, waking up each day thanking God for providing intervention for your children. It will never "feel right" that my 13 year old twins are not living at home right now. As I experience this pain of missing them, I wonder how God will use this pain for his glory.

     We will be going to a conference over Thanksgiving put on by the Alliance of a Romania without orphans. The pre conference class is on how to start a support group for adoptive families. I hope that we can start a support group here and encourage, listen to, and empathize with other adoptive parents. I have also recently received training in the first four instruments of Feuerstein therapy. Here is a link to learn about the benefits of this therapy:  Feuerstein and Testimonials. Joey, our adopted son, went through the first instrument of Feuerstein last year. He was failing math in school last year, this year he tested out of the math class he was in and has been moved to a more advanced math class. I believe this therapy helped him learn how to think and has impacted his grades this year. I am starting to practice on some kids here and hope to start with kids from private children's homes in January. I believe God will use our pain to empathize better with others going through this same pain.

     A song that has been very encouraging to me as I feel tempted to wallow in my sorrow is called: "Sovereign Over Us"
There is strength within the sorrow
There is beauty in our tears
And You meet us in our mourning
With a love that casts out fear
You are working in our waiting
You're sanctifying us
When beyond our understanding
You're teaching us to trust
ref:
Your plans are still to prosper
You have not forgotten us
You're with us in the fire and the flood
You're faithful forever
Perfect in love
You are sovereign over us

You are wisdom unimagined
Who could understand Your ways
Reigning high above the Heavens
Reaching down in endless grace
You're the lifter of the lowly
Compassionate and kind
You surround and You uphold me
And Your promises are my delight

Even what the enemy means for evil
You turn it for our good
You turn it for our good and for Your glory
Even in the valley, You are faithful
You're working for our good
You're working for our good and for Your glory

     I believe God will use our pain for his glory. I am happy to announce that I will visit the twins the first weekend in December. Trusting in our faithful and sovereign God to continue working out for good the pain in our lives and the pain in our twins lives.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Beauty From Ashes

I want to give a plug for a really great ministry. Here in Romania when the kids age out of the system at age 18, they are given a little bit of money and sent on their way with no training, no preparation on how to work, no way to survive. There is a ministry in Oradea called, Beauty From Ashes; they take girls from the orphanage at age 18, give them a place to live, teach them to work, teach them about their Heavenly Father, basically they bring them in to live and become part of this family. Corey and Diana Burba live in the home with them. They have two small children of their own. This is a remarkable ministry and we were thrilled to visit with them last week and see first hand what it takes to keep a ministry like this up and running. It takes a lot of work and a lot of love. They are currently fund raising to actually purchase the house they have been renting. One of the first things they do with the girls is teach them to make jewelry. The girls eventually go out and get a job but when they first arrive, most have never worked a day in their life and have to be introduced to it slowly. They start them a few hours a day working in their very own workshop and then it is sold on their etsy site. May I please present to you a wonderful idea for Christmas shopping this year; buy some beautiful and unique handmade jewelry and support a great ministry all at the same time. Here is the link:
https://www.etsy.com/shop/BeautyfromashesUSA?ref=l2-shopheader-name

You can never have enough jewelry and they make some really beautiful pieces. I hope you will consider shopping here for the jewelry lovers in your family. I will also share the fund raising link for the house purchase. https://www.gofundme.com/purchaseorphanhome
Please pray for Corey and Diana and the team of workers they have as they teach, train, and prepare these girls to live on their own.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Recommendations

I have some trouble keeping up with this blog because most days my life seems rather dull and there is really nothing to write about. I also struggle to blog because I am not a writer. I discover this more and more as I homeschool 2 high schoolers and try to grade their many writing assignments and realize I know nothing about writing. Thankfully, Baron's Aunt Wanda was a high school English teacher and provides some assistance.

I wanted to recommend a movie and a book. First, the movie, it's called Lion. I have seen it three times and it has touched me each time. It is based on a true story of a boy lost in India; he somehow escapes being used and sold into the sex slave industry and is miraculously adopted by a family from Australia. It is a very realistic look at what it looks like for these children who many times are not true orphans. They adopt another boy who is deeply troubled. If you want to have your eyes opened to the issues and danger of children being sold and abused, and if you want to see a story of hope, then this is a great movie. Sometimes seeing the huge numbers, as shown at the end of the movie, can be depressing and it can discourage us; what can I possibly do. No, you can't save them all but you can save one, you can impact one or two or more. "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world" (James 1:27ESV). Not everyone is called to adoption but we are all called to "visit orphans and widows in their affliction." Find out what this looks like for you and help them in their affliction today!

Second, the book. This book has nothing to do with adoption or orphans but I want to recommend, In Search of the Source, by Neil Anderson with Hyatt Moore. I read this in our home school as a read aloud years ago and have since read it twice more. I am reading it aloud to my youngest this year and he says after every chapter I read I say the same thing, "I love this book!" It is about the Bible being translated into a language that had never been written before, I believe this was in the 1970s. The complicated job it was to first develop an alphabet and a written language for a small people group in Papua New Guinea took dedication and great faith that God wanted His Word translated into every language. I love how he spends time learning the language and getting to know the culture. Many times they would be confused with a literal translation because it didn't make sense to them. For instance by the sweat of man's brow he will work for food. They didn't understand this, they sweat just sitting doing nothing it is so hot there in the tropics. When they talk of working hard, they say, "we burst our stomach." I love how amazed and in love with the words written by God the people are as they start to hear the stories read to them for the first time. They sit on the edge of their seats waiting to see how the story of Joseph ends. Then the part that gets me every time is when they say, "we are dying from the deliciousness of these words." They are so moved by the Word of God. I can not imagine what is like hearing the teachings for the first time, they are so familiar to me, I grew up hearing them from the time I was conceived! It opens my eyes again to how "delicious" God's word should be to me; how precious it should be. It reminds me to not take for granted the fact that I have several copies of God's Word all over my house. It reminds me to pray and ask God to, "open my eyes that I may behold wondrous things from your law" (Psalm 119:18).


Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Family Time

Six years ago we were introduced to the mission board called Biblical Ministries Worldwide. We were invited to their missionary conference in Germany and we decided to go. It was a God meeting. We were coming back from a furlough and thinking we had new co workers and then found out our new co workers were not able to stay in Romania due to health reasons.  We were completely disappointed; after waiting for years to have co workers it felt like such a let down, but God was at work and had a plan. They invited us to the conference and we went. It was August of 2012 and I don't remember a whole lot about the conference except for when we got in the car and pulled away I started to cry and told Baron I couldn't believe we had been missing out on this kind of fellowship for our first 10 years in Romania! At that point, I knew in my heart I wanted to be part of this board.

We continued to go back to the conference each year and they always made us feel welcome even though we weren't official family members. For various reasons it took 5 years before we could officially become part of this mission board. It became official last summer and we just got back from our first conference as part of the family! It felt a little different this time. I felt more connected to this group of people that serve God in various European countries. I enjoy hearing their stories, learning about their calling, getting to know their hearts, and being encouraged by them. We learned from the book of Psalms together, we prayed together, we laughed together, and best of all we were real together. There is no better and purer friendships than those where you can be your complete self without any fear.

The other great thing about being a part of this board and going to this conference is our kids get together with other third culture kids and can completely be themselves and feel safe and have fun. Our two oldest were in the teen group. They took late night walks down to the castle and played games. They talked and laughed a lot and slept very little! They had their own Bible studies with a young man/pastor who is from England and he poured into their lives during the week.

We had an adventure getting to the conference. We flew into Italy and rented a car. Our plane tickets were $10 round trip for each person, yes you read that correctly! We flew to Bergamo and we missed seeing this old medieval town but we will be visiting it again with such cheap air fare available!  We drove through beautiful Switzerland. It is just unreal how beautiful the drive was. We drove back through the Austrian Alps and the Italian Alps. They make tunnels right through the mountains. The longest tunnel we went through was 16km! The drive was just breathtakingly beautiful. Of course on the way back the boys missed most of it as they were exhausted and sleeping. We then spent Monday in Venice, Italy wanting to give the boys a chance to see a new place. They were so tired I don't know how much they enjoyed it. We did have Italian pizza and Italian ice cream (gelato) which as always was delicious.

Over all it was a really good trip. It's always an adventure traveling through Europe and this time was no exception! We always come home with thankful hearts full and encouraged! 




Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Hard Things

Gina and I arrived in Greenville, S.C. on January 28, 2016. In February, I joined a gym and started working out, hard workouts, killer workouts, workouts that make you think before you shove another cookie in your mouth! At first, I thought, this is ridiculous, why am I doing this to myself. Then I realized it was a great stress relief. It was one hour each day my mind wasn't trying to find a solution or thinking about being away from my husband and boys or the stress of having a child with mental illness! Then, I started running. Now, let me tell you something, I have never been a runner. I could never even get the President's fitness award in high school because I could not run a mile in under 9 minutes! I ran a 5k in September of 2016 and  another one in December then I signed up for a half marathon! Yes, crazy is a good word to insert here. Running for me became about doing something that was very hard for me. It was a huge mental hurdle to get over, physical too yes, but mostly mental. I begin to run because God wants us to do hard things and if I could do this thing that seemed impossible to me then I could do other hard things. I wanted to show my kids that their mom could do something that seemed way beyond her ability. I wanted them to see that I understood they were in a hard situation and I was asking them to do something really hard, face their demons so to speak. Running became my way of supporting my kids and showing them I was behind them. It was my way of showing them we can do hard things, we can have courage, we can do all things through Christ. There were long runs during training that I thought I would never be able to complete 13.1 miles in May! I thought what am I doing! Once I got past running 7 miles the soreness would set in. I would run Saturday morning and then limp around the rest of the day all stiff and feeling old! I was determined though and my running buddy was fun to run with. Stephanie and I would run our Saturday long runs on the Swamp Rabbit Trail. I feel that God gives our bodies the ability to do amazing things if we can just get our minds on board! My exercise program has helped and is helping me to become more disciplined in other areas of my life to. Running has made the verse in Hebrews 12:1 come alive to me, let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. I've learned a lot about the endurance my body is capable of from running. Who knows, maybe someday I'll be crazy enough to train for a full marathon!!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Adoption Pt.3

In the previous post, I wrote about our daughter Gina. For the past two years she really has been the focus of my attention. Joey just kind of ran with the boys and a lot of his problems were over looked because of the severe nature of Gina's issues. When Joey was little, he was quiet and mischievous. You didn't want him to get bored or he would be destroying something, books, furniture, blankets, toys, anything he could get his hands on. We learned very quickly that all scissors and razors should be hidden! Joey is a charmer. He has a beautiful charming side that he puts on for others but as he hit puberty that charming side was only available for others, not for his family. One of his brothers started to notice this and asked me why Joey was so nice to him when they were at a friend's house but when they came home he was mean and grumpy.

We had him psychologically evaluated and we were told:" Psychologically, Joey is a very empty, depressed, lost and confused youth.  There is no question that he has had no formal attachment during his early formative years due to multiple developmental failures.  He is often fear based, bored, lost and confused as the world around him is too overwhelming and he tends to 'shut down' or comes out in an acting out manner.  This is very common in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and children who come from developmental failure backgrounds in which agitation, irritability or times that total 'shut down' tends to take over."
 It was very overwhelming to realize both of our children had severe issues due to their abandonment and lack of consistent care givers in their first 5 years of life. We began to realize how important bonding at an early age was. At first, I thought I would home-school him even while in the states. The psychologist gave us some curriculum ideas that he thought would be a help to Joey. Within the first 3 days of 5th grade, I told my husband to take Joey to the school that was 5 minutes away and enroll him, I couldn't do it. Homeschooling children with attachment issues is not the way to go. There is too much of a struggle between the child and adoptive mom. Joey wasn't willing to learn from me, he didn't think I had anything to offer him.

We put him in school  and his teachers loved him. He was a leader in the class and a good example for all the students who were on the wild side. He was socially awkward and didn't know how to behave in a classroom but he picked up on how to behave quickly. He was chosen by his teacher to be on student council, he was in art club, he was the best runner in the school. At home, he became more and more troubled. He wanted to be entertained at all times and if he got bored he would get into trouble. He is a great artist, natural God given ability to draw but he was easily bored with drawing. He didn't like to read, he didn't like to play computer games. He always wanted us to take him somewhere, he was happy as long as he was the center of attention and as long as he was doing something fun. We tried to start teaching him and training him that life isn't always fun, it's ok to be bored, you still need to make good choices even when you are bored. He began to argue with everything we asked of him. He didn't want help with his homework, he didn't have a teachable spirit, he already knew everything and whatever mom and dad have to stay is just plain stupid! We sought counseling for him. We also signed him up for a type of brain therapy as this was recommended to us by someone to help him with school. The purpose of the therapy was to start teaching him to think before he responds/acts. It was called NILD and Feuerstein therapy. Another problem with both our kids was, no matter the consequence no matter the reward if they got an idea in their head that they thought they needed to do, they were going to do it. Nothing could motivate them towards obedience. They were very obsessive compulsive, they had to do what was in their head to do even if there was a heavy consequence or great reward, no amount of reward charts worked. I think through all of this, he started to feel like an outsider. Our youngest son was more mature and more trust worthy than he was. He started to look at the family as us vs. him. He couldn't see we were trying to teach and train him and if he would just do what he was told he would earn the same privileges his younger brother had. He did not think he should have to do anything to earn privileges. He was a pathological liar. I am not sure he had the know how or ability to tell the truth. Lying was so natural to him. No matter how small or big his first response to any situation was to lie. "No, I didn't shave my eyebrows." As I'm staring at bald spots in his eyebrows. He would argue with me like I was crazy for thinking he shaved his eyebrows. I would finally take him to the mirror and say, "Joey, I can see that you shaved them, please stop lying." Then the story would finally come out, he thought they were too bushy and so even though we told him not to touch razors, if one was left out, he was going to take care of his eyebrows. I am currently reading a book called, "Beyond Consequences, Logic, and Control." It is giving me great insight into the reason behind the lying. I want to quote a bit from the book: "Research in the field of neuro-science has shown that children who have experienced trauma react to stress out of a state of fear, from an unconscious level, as deep as the state memory. The fear receptor in the brain becomes overly triggered and, in this stress state, the traumatized child's perception of the situation at hand becomes distorted and exceptionally fearful. Children with trauma histories are living out of a primal state of survival. They literally lie from a place of life or death. Their survival is dependent on convincing you that they are telling the truth. In this distortion of their mind, the state level of memory drives them with the conviction that they must persist with this lie at all costs in order to survive. Simple events throughout the child's day can cause intense fear reactions...In order to understand this lying behavior, we must first acknowledge that the child is simply reacting from a state of fear. It is critical that we acknowledge that when children with trauma histories are triggered into their stress and confronted in a lie, they will continue to reinforce the lie. Thus, the awareness that the child's unconscious is saying, 'I have to convince you I'm telling the truth because my life depends on it' is necessary in order for the parent to respond from a place of love, instead of a place of fear and punishment."
This has really helped me understand where they are coming from when they lie. Unfortunately, I didn't respond in this way to the lying. It will drive you insane if you don't have an understanding of the why behind these ridiculous lies. They can have chocolate all over their face or you saw them to something with your own eyes and they will look at you and deny it over and over!

In January of this year, we started wondering what we could do to best help Joey. He did not want to go back to Romania. He did not want to home-school again. I did not want to home-school him. We started looking for other options. A family he could stay with  and continue with school and brain therapy. We looked and prayed and nothing opened up. We talked with the case worker at Watersprings just to see if she had any ideas and she told us if we wanted, they would take Joey too. By this time, Gina was making great progress and it seemed like since many of Joey's struggles were the same as hers, maybe this was the road we should choose. We prayed, we talked to his counselor and then in March we made the decision that at the end of the school year we would take him to live at the ranch for right now. The goals for him there are to find healing and the ability to move forward by him realizing his identity is found in Christ, not in his past, not in what happened to him, not even in his adoptive family. The other goal is for him to get up to grade level. He has struggled with school and it took a few years for them to get the English language down which put them behind. I was never able to gain their trust enough to help them catch up, we would barely get through that day;s assignments! We took him to Watersprings Ranch on Memorial Day weekend. He wasn't happy about going although he wanted to stay in the states, he just had a different idea of what that would look like. We also were glad the twins would get the chance to bond again. He gave us a very flat good-bye and as we (Baron, Andrew, Nate, and myself) pulled away we were all crying. You feel so bad that your adoptive child feels so bad. It feels bad that they feel bad and yet have no idea why they feel so bad. It hurts to know your child needs someone other than you to provide the help they need. It is natural to leave your child behind for college (even though it is hard), but they are ready to start moving on. Leaving your 13 year olds behind doesn't feel natural, it doesn't feel right but I know it was the right thing to do. I know that God is using others to work in their lives. Watersprings Ranch is located in Texarkansa, Arkansas. If you every feel led to donate to an organization that helps kids from difficult backgrounds, kids with attachment issues, kids who need someone other than adoptive parents to step in and guide them, then please donate to this organization. I have spoken with Joey once so far and he sounded really good on the phone. I'm looking forward to seeing what God is going to do in and through Joey.

For those who are walking this road, know that you are not alone. You need to know that even though you feel guilty for needing respite from your child, you do need respite at times. You also need to know that sending your child away to get help is not abandoning them again. It can feel like it but it is just doing what is best for them and your other children. I have been able to spend time with my other kids and see that some of them  have suffered due to my lack of being there for them the past few years. It's hard to make a decision like this but you have to look at the big picture and realize for your child or your other children to have a future sometimes drastic steps have to be taken. You can not worry about what people think, if someone has not walked this road they have no right to tell you that you are making a mistake and how could anyone send their child away, or I could never do that!! You have to make hard and difficult decisions and take everyone in your family into consideration when making this decision. We knew God wasn't finished with us in Romania, we knew that we didn't have the resources needed here to meet Gina and Joey's needs and we knew God had opened this door for them. If you need help please reach out. I don't have all the answers but I can listen and encourage you and let you know you aren't alone and remind you of God's promises to you. I can also provide you with a list of places/services that may be helpful to you.

These kids are not just "rebellious." Their behaviors are rooted in fear and a need to survive. It seems absurd to us that a child wouldn't feel safe and secure and loved with a family he has never been abused in and has had his or her every need met for the past 7 years but the first years of their life are so important. They did not form a bond with anyone in those first 5 years, they did not have a primary care giver to make them feel safe and this has affected their ability to attach to us and feel safe with us. At some point, yes, the sin has to be dealt with but until you can get to the root of the problem there is no way for the child to even see his sin because he is so sure he has to lie or disobey to survive that in he mind, he is justified to behave this way.  We learned this the hard way. Parenting these kids looks very different from parenting a child you had from birth. I encourage people who feel called to adopt to read. Here are some books I've read that I recommend:
1. "Detached" by Jessie Hogsett. Written from the perspective of a person with RAD.
2. "Beyond Consequences, Logic, and Control" Very good information on what is going to cause some of the behaviors.
3. "The Connected Child" by Karyn Purvis.
I also recommend you find in your area a counselor that has specialized training with attachment disorder. Find a support group. Find people to support you after you bring the child/children home.

I will continue with a few more blog posts on what God has taught me through all of this and how He has sustained me even when there were times I felt like I was just falling and there was no end. God is good. He does provide at just the right time and I continue to learn to trust Him at all times. I still struggle with the fact that we had to make this decision. It is a daily battle to not give into self pity or wonder if we did the right thing. God's grace is sufficient for each day. Each day, He gives me the grace I need to get through that day. I look forward with hope, that our family will be reunited and that God will encourage and strengthen all my children as this has been a difficult road to walk for each of them.