Sunday, February 17, 2013

Sam's "1st" Birthday (In Pictures)

Watching "Follow That Bird!". That's Sam in the little blue chair :)

She LOVED the pinata!

These are the best giggles I've ever had on video. My favorite sound on earth! Now you can enjoy it too :)

Happy 8th birthday, sweet Samantha. You are SO loved!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

From Dust You Came

To dust you will return.

What a timely reminder.

I am dust.

My body and all of the things I have accumulated amount to dust.

As I worshiped tonight, as ashes were smeared on my forehead in the shape of a cross, I was reminded of the depth of my sin. And that life as we know it will soon pass away.

These bodies of our? Dust.

The reality of it all shook me a little bit tonight, evoking emotions I would have been bashful to share with anyone else at the time. I imagined someone asking, "Are those tears, Grace? What's wrong?", and quickly dried my eyes.

I was not about to explain to some unsuspecting person that my heart was literally hurting for the sin in the world. In the room. In me.

There's no way I could explain that tears were welling up in my eyes because I'm feeling the weight and meaning of this verse:
Friends, this world is not your home. So don't make yourselves cozy in it. Don't indulge your ego at the expense of your soul. 1 Peter 2:11
"I don't belong here," I thought.

I watched my pastor carefully tonight as he carried the communion elements into the crowd, several rows back, to a frail, older woman. After serving the bread and the wine, he stooped down where his eyes could meet hers before speaking these familiar words, "May the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ strengthen you and keep you steadfast in the one true faith until life everlasting".

I shifted my focus to the woman. She could barely lift her head; she was so tired. And I don't mean ready for bed, tired. I mean, she's run the race set before her and heaven is coming for her soon, tired. She's ready.

I found myself hoping against all hope that the young people sitting around me, and well...everyone in our church tonight...that we would truly understand what this woman understands. That this place is not our home.

I'm hoping we too will be found kneeling at God's altar with repentant hearts when we're nearing "life everlasting".

I hope God will give us eyes to see His Kingdom, right here, right now. Worth more than any treasure. Worth more than the good health and long lives we strive for. Worth more than any amount of power or fame.

I hope we will not forget. That I will not forget.

I want to live for the things that will remain. The things I can take with me to life everlasting.

From dust we came.

To dust we will return.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

I Remember

If its possible, I held Sam a little closer tonight. I smothered her with extra kisses and soaked in the sweet goodness of her contented smile and infectious giggle (even despite that darn chronic double ear infection).

Today marks 6 months since I carried Sammers out of that orphanage. Six months since she became a daughter and I, a mother.

Yes, 6 months ago, today, God set us in a family. 

And as Sam and I said our bedtime prayers tonight, I thanked Him again and again and again and again for bringing us together.

I hugged her even tighter after reading this today and then remembering and reliving what I know of her history. 

I remember the face of the child I committed to last August.

This was all I knew of her for months. I wondered whether she would smile.

I remember the child I met back in April.

Tinier than her picture and file had led me to believe (Although I had been warned by other visiting mamas that she'd lost some weight). More damaged than I could have imagined. But also more potential for healing.

I remember conversations in the orphanage about my girl; the staff openly despised her, according to her baba. 

I remember a year full of unbelievable spiritual oppression as I fought to bring my baby home. (I've said it before and I'll say it again. I am not a fanatic. I've encountered many a difficulty in my life that I will not attribute to the spiritual realm. But I promise you this was nothing short of knock down, drag out attack. Day after day.)

I remember the sickly, hungry, tiny, malnourished, scared and out of sorts little girl I found when I went back to the orphanage in August. She was clearly worse for the wear since I had last seen her (Hence the spiritual warfare!). Again, even smaller than she was in April, having lost a total of at least four pounds in a year. Her hair was haphazardly cut less than an inch from her head and she was wearing boys clothes several times too big for her frame. 

I remember the little girl who cried inconsolably throughout the car ride from Pleven to Sophia, and then throughout the following week at the hotel. The little girl who was terrified of open spaces. Traumatized by strollers. Could hardly stand to be touched. Could barely recover from encounters with strangers at dinner. Who could tolerate only the smallest amounts of food and drink, but even that was enough to double her over in pain as her body worked so, so hard to digest it. 

I remember hiding in the smallest of places in our apartment for days because a big open room, and even the few visitors that we had, were more than my sweet little girl could handle.

That was then. 

This is now.

14 pounds later, I cannot help but rejoice at the incredible transforming work God has done in Sam's life. 

 She is happy.

She is healthy.

She is fully alive. Finally. For the first time in her life.

And this Saturday, for the first time EVER, she will celebrate a birthday (number 8!) at home, surrounded by family who love her deeply.

But while we celebrate, I will continue to remember.

I will remember the skeleton of a child who sat on a swing, forlorn, as we walked into the orphanage on Sam's gotcha day.

I will remember the child, no bigger than an infant, stiff as a dead body, carried as if an object through the corridor.

I will remember sweet, sweet, so very sweet smiles from children who had nothing to smile about. Who miraculously thrilled to my touch after years without.

I will remember a stone building that is still filled with floor after floor of discarded and yet unwanted children. Children who continue to wait day after day for a mama to come and carry them out to safety.

I will PRAY WITH ALL OF MY HEART that God will complete the good work that HE started. And I will open my hands to Him, to help in any way He will allow.

Starting with this little boy.

"Chad" is the object of my constant thoughts and prayers. And I wonder if you might join me in thinking of him and praying for him, too.

This tiny little boy breaks my heart. He's been given a second chance on Reece's Rainbow, but still no one has shown any interest in becoming his family.

I met "Chad" briefly in April. He was outside in a stroller with his baba. I crouched down to smile at him and tell him how lovely he was and he gave be the biggest, sweetest reward of a smile back. He's smaller than you can tell from his pictures. Sam and I spent some time in this very spot where he is posed, and from what I can tell he is even smaller than she was. And two years older.

An adoptive mama who saw him recently reported that he is just skin and bones, very delayed, but cheerful and active. A fighter.

God is filling my heart with more love for this kiddo than I can handle, which is good, because it reminds me to pray that soon, he too will be celebrating a birthday, with a family, and more love than he can comprehend.

Jesus, please make the way straight for Chad's future family. Provide all that is needed. Help them run to him without delay. And while he waits, will you be his help and comfort, attending to his every need as only You can. Amen.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

All About Sam: Part 1

Not everyone is lucky enough to discover their life's passion at a young age. Some people struggle and search well into adulthood. But not my Sam.

Sam has found her passion.

Or is it an obsession?

Well, anyway. Sam. Loves. Water. 


And as she grows bigger and stronger, so grows the fierceness with which she loves her daily bath. Her splashing cannot hardly be described in words. This girl is a force when she is in the water. One might notice that there seems to be a correlation between the amount of fun had and the number of towels it takes to clean up afterward.

I've been working on teaching Samantha the word "gentle". I'll dip my hand into the water and delicately move it from side to side, singing softly, "gen-tle, gen-tle". Then I'll take her hand in mine and show her how to move in the water just like mommy does. For brief moments at a time, Sam seems to understand what I'm asking of her, but then adrenaline takes over and she must SPLASH!!!!

We've talked about water a lot at therapy. Our therapists are terrific and have come up with some great ideas...but none have worked quite yet. Mostly because Sam can't be distracted from her water. She doesn't want any toys, or wash cloths, or cups, or ANYTHING in her way. Just her and the water. 

So this last week I finally got smart and adapted our bath time routine in a way that works for Sam. In fact, she loves it. She's happy as a clam. 

The solution?

Don't fill the tub.

Yep, that's right. The best part of bath time anyway, as far as she's concerned, is when the water is running. So, why not just let it run? It's like a sitting shower. She splashes to her heart's content with almost none of the mess. 

When its not bath time (which, let's be honest, she wishes all day was bath time), she always seems to be able to find other equally fun (and wet) ways to pass the time. 

She loves to splash in the dog's water dish at Grammy and Papa's house. She has this act down to an art, splashing hard and fast as lightning before quickly leaving the scene of the crime. (It doesn't matter where that dish is. She will find it!)

And how about the toilet? Its like a tiny, always full bath tub. A worthy substitute. Ever since Sam discovered water I have been carefully attentive to her while in the bathroom, knowing that the toilet would be a problem if she ever noticed what was in it. Well, watch out! She's onto me. The toilet did not disappoint. (I do believe that bad boy is going to need a lock.)

Doing dishes with Mommy is always a welcome task, although we really need to work on sharing. Sam is usually quick to share, but please don't ask her to share her water! When we do dishes together, she is always shocked and appalled when it's my turn to use the faucet. And if anything goes wrong and she needs to be moved? Deep sadness ensues.

If there's no water to be found, a cup of coffee (or any liquid, really) will do. Before anyone comments with the ever helpful, "why don't you just keep your coffee where she can't reach it?", please kindly reconsider. I am pretty vigilant. She is just that good :)  I can turn my back for a second only to hear that ever familiar, "tap tap tap" followed by cream and sugared coffee goodness (and ceramic mug) flying through the air in slow motion. My white curtains have been victimized twice. (Once while there were 4 other adults in the room. Therapists, no less, who had come to evaluate her for school services.)

Whenever there is a lul in the action at our house, Sam can be found sitting, waiting, watching a faucet, just in case it turns on. She waits happily, unless she know's I am watching her :) Which reminds me that I should tell you about Sam's newest skill! She tried it out on me for the first time just a few days ago.

Sam had once again escaped to the bathroom to stare at the tub (our bathroom door doesn't always latch so well). When she noticed that I had followed her, she looked over at me, promptly stood up at the tub, stuck out that cute litte tongue, channeled her inner actress, and cried. So fake. But so cute. 

Can you tell how much fun this girl is? Or how much I love her? My goodness. So much it hurts.

I was looking at old pictures just a little while ago (you'll see a couple below), and I just cried, remembering the little girl I picked up just under 6 months ago. Scared, disoriented, hungry, stimming constantly with little relief. It's hard to believe she is the same child as the the happy, smiling, vivacious, life-filled little girl that I woke up to this morning. I am one blessed mama; that's for sure!

I labeled this post Part 1so I'd have to come back and write a 2, 3, and so on. So, I'll be back soon! Until then, lots of love to all of you.

Remember this photo? 

Sam was TERRIFIED of water. Even a sponge bath was too much for my little sweet pea.

But oh have times changed! This was after only a few weeks home, I believe.

And here, a brand new girl after only a few months. 

Excuse me? Can someone help me out here?

This IS a sink, isn't it? Where's the WATER???

Ah yes, thank you :)

I'd love to chat...

...some other time...

...I'm pretty busy with this awesome WATER!!!!

Oh yes, even better!

If I stand up just a little taller...