If you have visited here before, you can probably see that I have changed the name of the blog again. I started blogging at 4URuthie to tell the story of our journey to adopt our 1st daughter. I changed it to Mountains for Maggie when we were praying for God to move mountains on behalf of our 2nd daughter. Well now it is no longer just Ruthie’s or Maggie’s stories. It is now our family's story, and the stories of those we share life with, as we Conquer Mountains together. Both ConqueringMountains.net and 4URuthie.blogspot will lead here.

About Me

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I am a pastor's wife, mother of 4 kids (2 adopted and 3 with special needs), physical therapist, and photography junky. This is where it all comes together for me. Feel free to join along as I process life out loud.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Before You Say No... (12 Common Concerns about Foster Care and Adoption)

...let's talk about it for a minute.

Orphan Sunday is this week and I want to take a moment to answer some questions and respond to some misconceptions about foster care and adoption. This is in NO WAY meant to guilt anyone into orphan care or place any kind of judgment on someone for not choosing to take that step. The desire of my heart is to help some of you, who may be called to adopt or foster, move forward with confidence.

**Okay I think we need to all start out on the same premise to make sure our minds and hearts are in the right place.

There are 3 truths we cannot deny as we approach these questions:
1. These children are loved by God. They are not commodities, a service opportunity, or an add-on to our spiritual resume. They are children, cherished by their Creator.

2. He has a plan for their lives and He desires to use His people to bring about His plans.

3. Anytime we are participating in ministry, we need to be reminded that it is not about us. Hear that? It is NOT about you. There I got that out and I won't say it again so I don't repetitively hack people off.

So Here Goes!

1. Adoption is Too Expensive -
You know what? Adoption is expensive. This is one area that was intimidating to me as well. I can tell you from experience that when we step out in faith, God will provide. Trent and I witnessed this with both of our adoptions where God would provide a check, fundraiser, or work opportunity just in time for each payment. In case you need some practical encouragement, here are some things that might help:
  • There is a 10-12K tax credit for domestic and international adoptions. This reimburses a large portion of your expenses and can be taken over several years. 
  • There are a lot of fundraisers that can be done. I have seen people sell t-shirts, artwork, jewelry, and other handmade goods. Garage sales are a great fundraiser. I did photo shoots to help support our adoption and many people were kind enough to give over my fee because they believed in my cause. 
  • There are grants available to assist with costs and, in my experience, most people who apply get something. 
  • There are people who cannot adopt but want to be involved in orphan care. One way they can do that is to support you. This allows other people to be involved in ministry and is a good thing. 
What I gained from a step of faith, a little hard work, and a whole lot of seeing God move. I wouldn't trade her for any asset nor any amount of financial security. 

2. I Don't Want to Foster Because I Hear You Can Be Accused of Abuse -
That is a hard one so I am going to punt to someone much smarter than I am, my friend, Jennifer.

"There is a difference between being accused of abuse and being investigated. Something relatively minor, like an ER visit for a busted chin, can trigger an investigation on your home. But, in most cases, the things foster parents are cited for during these investigations are things like unsecured cleaning supplies or an incomplete medical log, not abuse. If you were to be accused of abuse, your foster children could be removed during the investigation, but nothing would happen to your other children. The possibility of being accused of something untrue shouldn't stop you from caring for kids in crisis. Furthermore, I have been involved in foster care for over 3 years and I don't know anyone who has been accused of abuse."

Jennifer with her girls, on adoption day, giving them necklaces that say, "Chosen, Loved, Adopted".

3. I Fear the Birth Parents Would Take Them Back -
I am just going to go ahead and get the hard ones out of the way early on. My sister-in-law had this happen. I think it is best if you hear from her regarding her experience.

"I never thought that the birthmother that picked us to parent her child would change her mind. It was never a fear that I had while going through the adoption process. I’m glad I didn’t or it really could have been a paralyzing fear. I thought that once the baby was taken home that he would be ours and that all the legal stuff would be good. That's not how it worked out though. We had a beautiful baby boy in our home for about five days. Five days to take care of him and love him. And we had a few months before his birth to anticipate and dream about his arrival. We were invested (to say the least). And so when we had to literally place him back in the arms of his mother we were devastated. We mourned the loss of that baby, that future. But God is good and we were surrounded with family, church family, and friends that lifted us up and were there for us.

In less than two months we got a call from our agency about another little boy, our Joshua. He was 2-days old when we brought him into our home and hearts, and he will be 10-years old this coming January. I cannot imagine a different outcome or a different family than the one I have. God KNEW!

It was scary to put ourselves back in the pool of perspective parents. It was scary to trust that the calling God had on our lives to adopt was still true. But here is what I’ve learned: there is not a single incredible thing that you will do in your life that doesn’t come with some amount of risk. But If God has called you to it, then He will see you through it. Do you believe it? When you believe it then you will live it. Not everyone is called to adopt. But if you know you have been called, and you haven’t heeded that call, because of a list of fears, real or imagined, then you are missing out. You are missing out on the blessings that come from being obedient to God. We aren’t responsible for the outcome of the steps that God calls us to take. We are just responsible for the walk. So if you have a destination, a calling, realize that you may get there in a way that you didn’t think was possible and that it might be painful or uncomfortable. But when you get there you will be glad that you did because our God is a good Father who loves to give good gifts to His children. He is powerful. He is a Redeemer. A redeemer of lives, situations, and stories. He is faithful."

Melissa and Troy when Joshua was placed in their arms. 

4. It Would be too Hard to Give a Foster Child Back -
Since I have never had to do this, I asked my friend Kelsey to respond to this one out of her recent experience.

"This was one of our fears initially. We started this process with hearts that really wanted to help, but still with focus on OUR family, what WE thought would be best, and the impact on US. But somewhere along the way, God showed us that our motives were a little off. Who are we to say, 'God, we will be obedient to Your call to care for the orphans, but only if you let us keep them.'? Once we changed our way of thinking and realigned our hearts, that anxiety over losing control subsided and we committed to obeying with no strings or expectations attached. And then we got placed with two sweet twin girls. And then we loved them like our own as it headed toward adoption. And then we had to give them back. The truth is, there was heartache. But there was also huge peace in knowing that God’s plans are bigger. He chose us to be their parents for the exact number of days He intended us to be, and every single one of those days had purpose. We are on the other side of this question now and I can answer that while yes, it is hard, it’s not TOO hard. We would make the same decision again a thousand times over. And if you think about it, it’s really no different with biological children – we are not promised tomorrow with them either, but it doesn’t mean we choose not to parent them and love them wholeheartedly. ALL children are a gift on loan to us from God."

Kelsey's biological children with her sweet girls from foster care. I have no doubt the twins are better off for having spent time with Kelsey's family. 

5. What if the Foster Kid Came With "Baggage" -
Oh they do. They are traumatized children. Have you ever thought about how taking a child with "baggage" and showing them unconditional love that is based on who they are instead of what they do is the perfect opportunity to demonstrate the Gospel to them? You may be the only opportunity they have to receive unconditional love apart from Jesus. If Christ can look beyond our "baggage" and die for us, can we not demonstrate a fraction of that love for another? Finally, it is in those times when God calls me to step beyond my comfort and demonstrate the Gospel to another that I gain the greatest appreciation for what He did for me. 

 There is a great book called The Connected Child that provides excellent tools for parenting kids with "baggage." I recommend it for anyone considering foster care or adoption.

This is the hand of our former foster child gripping (in his sleep) a necklace that I gave him a few days after he was placed with us. His "baggage" was that he needed to be loved unconditionally and treated with kindness. I am thankful that God allowed us to see past his behavior to reach his heart. 

6. I Couldn't Love Them as Much as My Biological Child -
I believe the question here is about bonding. I will tell you that bonding is different in biological children, foster children, and adoption. With my biological kids, I had 9 months to bond with them as they grew inside of me. I felt like I already knew them when they arrived.

With my adopted girls, I had 6 months to bond with pictures of them and reports about them. I was so ready to get them into my arms that their "Gotcha Day" was just as sweet as my deliveries. Because they were already toddlers, bonding was different and took a little more time, but was just as special. A friend compared getting to know them to peeling the layers of an onion. With each layer, you get to know who they are a little better. I wouldn't trade those days of figuring out who they are and falling more in love with them with each "layer."

Bonding with my foster child was completely different. I had only a few hours to prepare for him but my compassion for him was so great that it enabled me to survive those first few weeks of "who are you and how do I respond to that?" Over time, he learned to trust me and that helped us bond. Compassion transitioned to perspective and that guided me through the next stage. I can't help but wonder if some foster parents never make the switch to perspective but instead begin comparing the behavior of their foster child to that of their biological children and that is where bonding begins to crumble. You cannot compare traumatized children to kids raised in a healthy home. It is simply not fair to them. You have to parent and bond with perspective. Bonding for me increased with each conquered emotional struggle. We were a team navigating waters that he had not asked to enter, in a boat I was learning how to paddle and keep afloat. There is a sense of camaraderie and accomplishment that comes when you can look back and see how far you have come. I would say our bonding happened together because he had to learn to trust me while I had to learn to relate to him in light of his past experiences. Bonding for us was sweet because it was earned.

I love that baby with every fiber of my being. It doesn't matter who gave birth to her, she is mine, and I thank God every day for the opportunity to love her. 

7. I am Too Old to Adopt -

People adopt for different reasons, but there are 2 groups that I see most consistently. The first is made up of couples who have experienced some form of infertility and have turned to adoption as an alternative way to build their family. I believe what they find is that the experience may be different from what they had originally imagined, but just as sweet.

The second group fits this topic. They are older couples who have already had and maybe even finished raising their biological children but feel called to continue parenting through adoption. They bring with them years of experience and wisdom that younger parents lack. Their age is not a hindrance in their journey but rather their greatest asset.

I don't know how old you are but I would love to tell you about 2 ladies who might be in your age range. They both traveled with me to China on my last mission trip. My friend Toni is 50 and her husband is 58. Her oldest child 27 and her youngest blessing is only 4 years old. My friend Beth is 52 and her husband is 53. Their oldest is 33 and their youngest is 5. The world may say that it isn't right to have your kids spread out by 20-30 years, but the world does not shape their theology, God does.

My friend Toni with her crew. Just look at all of those blessings. 

8. I Fear What My Biological Children Might be Exposed to -
I get that and I think it is wise parenting on your part to consider it. You don't want to go into fostering or adopting in denial of what your family may face. Trent and I responded to our concerns by putting some parameters around what we were open to and what we were not. A good social worker will also help you to establish parameters that are best for your family. For example, we have never taken in a child older than our youngest child already in the home. I am not recommending that for you necessarily. You need to come up with your own parameters, but that was one we felt would help protect our kids physically and emotionally.

My biological kids with their adopted sisters. Almost losing Maggie this summer was very difficult for them but I believe they are better people for having gone through it. They gained perspective on how precious life is and the importance of family. 

9. I Don't Think I Could Raise a Child of Different Ethnicity -
My friend Tabby said this and I thought it was great: "We aren't raising a color. We are raising a boy to love Jesus just as we would any child."

I would like to add that having a multicultural family has been an incredible experience for my kids. Trent and I always said we wanted to raise our kids with a Biblical worldview. Inviting children of different cultures into our home is one way we do that. I don't fear that my children will ever be racist because they have experienced children of a different race as their brother and sister. They know firsthand a different truth.

10. It Wouldn't be Fair to "My Kids" -
My friend Brandon has 2 adopted sisters, one domestic through foster care and one international. I asked him to speak to this concern.

"October 27, 1999. I was 8-years old the day we received Tia Grace Jones. She was only 5-days old. My mom came to pick my brothers and me up from church on a Wednesday evening and surprised us with what would eventually be my sister. We fostered Tia for just over a year before we were able to officially adopt her. From the second she came into our lives, the thought never once crossed my mind about this situation being "fair" to my brothers and me. We embraced her just like she was our biological sister from the get-go. I feel like if it's something God is calling you to then you drop what you are doing and follow his calling. Tia is now not only one of my best friends but just as much a part of our family as anyone else. We fight, laugh, and love just like any other family and God put the puzzle pieces into place perfectly.

When the idea started rolling about a second adoption, my parents allowed me to be much more involved in the process. By this time, I was 16 or 17 years old. Call me weird but from the second it was mentioned, I was not a bit hesitant about adopting from China. I was ready to pack my bags and go that day. While my intentions may have simply been looking for a good excuse for a vacation to China, I was just as excited to have another little sister. There hasn't been a single day that has gone by that I am not thankful to my parents for bringing my precious sisters into our lives. I can cannot imagine life without them.

God calls us to put our pride and selfishness aside and GO! Just the thought of children living without a mother or father breaks my heart. That being said, I ask that anyone that is reading this to take time to really think and pray about adoption. I can guarantee it will be one of the greatest decisions you will ever make. Don't let the small things get in the way of making a huge difference in the life of a fatherless child.

James 1:27 - Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you."

Brandon with his sisters, Tia (R) and Lia (L). 

11. I Couldn't Do Open Adoption. I Don't Want to Share My Child -
I love the way my friend Tabby views open adoption so I asked her to share her experience with you. 

"Open adoption doesn’t mean sharing a child or co-parenting. Open adoption is about honoring the natural bond between your adopted child and their birth mother. Open adoption is a beautiful representation of the Gospel. Open adoption calls us to be vulnerable. It calls us to love deeply. It calls us to step out in faith.

Without our son's beautiful birth mother, we wouldn’t be parents. Our son’s birth mother gave us the most beautiful gift. For her to give us her baby and never be able to see him or us again just doesn’t make sense. Our son is a part of her. We love her and are forever grateful to her. It seems only natural that she be in our lives and we in hers.

I love that they will never have to go searching for each other. They will never wonder how each other are doing, who they are, what they are like, or where the come from. A piece of them will never be missing and I find great comfort and joy in that. I love the fact that my son will always know his birth mother and have a relationship with her. He will always know how loved he is. He will always know why she made the choice to place him. He will never have to wonder about such things. I love that we are able to call or text when a medical issue arises. I love that we have a relationship and I love that we all share a relationship with Jesus."

12. I Couldn't Handle it if They Wanted to Know Their Birthmother Even After What She Did -
More from my friend Tabby. Please keep in mind this is written from the perspective of infant adoption and not in reference to a foster care abuse situation.

"My heart often breaks for birth mothers and the bad rap they get. All too often they are misunderstood. With comments like “I could never give my baby away,” or “they must not love their baby,” or “she took the easy way out.” I would like to address this and educate you on birth mothers. 

Birth mothers are heroes. They are selfless. They are loving. They are the strongest women I know.
Everything mentioned above is a myth, a stereotype and well…just plain wrong.

Birth mothers don’t give their babies away. They make the brave decision to place them in a loving home. No birth mother dreams of getting pregnant and having to place a baby. They place a baby because they don’t have the necessary resources and/or support. They place because they feel that they can’t provide everything they need or deserve at that particular time in their life. So they make the hardest and most loving decision ever. They choose adoption.

I can assure you that birth moms LOVE their children. It’s important to remember that just because the pregnancy was unplanned doesn’t mean the child isn’t wanted or loved. They love them SO much that they are able to put the child's needs ahead of their own and make an adoption plan so that their child will have everything they want, need, and deserve. Their love for their child is full, immense, and deep.

Choosing adoption is in NO way the easy way out. In fact, it’s hard….very hard. Many women who are facing an unplanned pregnancy often feel that abortion is their only option not because they aren’t aware of adoption, but because society isn’t kind to birth mothers. I want to CHANGE that. I want birth mothers to be looked at as the heros they are. I want people to love them like Jesus does. I want people to know what precious and selfless gift-givers they are! I want people to see how they value LIFE. I truly feel that if people LOVED birth mothers as much as they HATE abortion, there would be a lot more adoption in the world."

Tabby with her precious son whom she received through open, domestic adoption. 

Thank you for taking the time to read this and thank you to my friends in the adoption community for taking the time to contribute. If you have any other questions about adoption please don't hesitate to ask. I would love to be an encouraging resource for you.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

She is Fine, but...

It has been an eventful 18 hours.

We were playing in the front yard last night with the neighbors.  Maggie asked for a drink so Jack volunteered to take her inside to get one.  He was carrying her across the yard when he tripped over the dog leash and fell on top of her.  It was immediately clear that her arm was broken. 

Trent and I scooped her up and rushed to the ER.  We were headed to Texas Children's when she suddenly went unconscious.  Trent detoured and stopped at a closer hospital and they placed us in an ambulance for the rest of the transport.  We aren't sure what happened.  My theory is that all of the adrenaline and screaming threw her heart out of rhythm and she passed out.  

We got home about 3:30 last night.  She has 2 fractures and her elbow is displaced but we won't know a plan until we follow up with orthopedics next week.  They called us this morning to return to the ER but then called again when we were almost there and said to wait.  So we are in a bit of a holding pattern and managing her discomfort with lots of ice cream. 

Here are a few observations from this experience:

1. We are never moving.  Once again my neighbors ran to our rescue, locked up our house, fed our other 3 and even sat at our home until we returned at 3:30 am.  It takes a village and we have found ours.  They are stuck with us.

2. I am ready for October to end.  Crazy stuff always happens to us in October.  When we lived in Waco, we were told that the occult in Waco prayed against (or whatever they do) the pastors in the area during October and sure enough we sensed it.  Could someone please tell them (the Waco occult people whoever they are) that we moved and they can retire our doll and leave us alone?

3. I am thankful for the insurance out-of-pocket max.    Really, really thankful. So thankful that I may vote Democrat if the Republicans threatened to take it away. :)

4. Jack is a great brother.   He didn't mean to drop her and felt awful about it.  He has been taking great care of her this morning and I believe she has discovered that she has a slave for as long as she can work the victim angle.   In the car she would yell "Jack! More ice cream!".  Right now he is singing Frozen tunes with her in her room.  She is smarter than we realized.

5. Whenever God clears my schedule I need to pack a bag.   I remember once a few years ago that my schedule cleared for no apparent reason and then my grandmother died.  I have seen that trend since then in less serious situations and then again this weekend.  All of my photography clients had to reschedule from this weekend for one reason or another.  Instead of filling the spots, I decided to take a quiet weekend with the family.  Ha! God had other plans and I should have guessed it was coming.

6. I need the church roster so I can send out disclaimer emails.  I feel like I miss more church than I am able to attend these days.  A few weeks ago someone was sick.  Last week I worked the nursery and this week I will be home with Maggie and the unstable arm.  As the pastors wife, I fear the assumptions probably more than I should.  So, I won't be in the church service once again.  It is kinda hard to take turns staying home when your husband is the pastor.  Don't worry.  Trent and I are okay and I still love Jesus. :) I will be back.  Someday.

Maggie is going to be fine.  There is a decent chance that she will have some kind of procedure next week to fix her elbow.  It is her left arm which stinks because it is a big fat interruption to therapy.  You can pray she heals quickly.  This did not take God by surprise and probably shouldn't have taken us by surprise either.  After all, God cleared my schedule AND it's October!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

It's My Sister's Fault

We have a new Henderson and it really is my sister's fault. :)

It started when my sister kept Sam and Ruthie for a week while Maggie was in the hospital.  

A few weeks later she called me with a statement that went something like, "You know your kids really love my dog, and she doesn't get played with here anymore, and I was wondering if you would like to have her because we are going to give her away." 

I knew already that they loved the dog because they talked about her a lot and wanted to see the dog on Skype.  Maggie even loved the "go go" (Chinese for dog) and asked to see her when we chatted with Aunt Johnette.

I mentioned it to the kids and they were ecstatic.  We had previously talked about getting a Golden Retriever so the deal was if we got Abby, then there would be no other dogs.  I thought Sam would back out but he was completely fine with it.

At that point, I figured I was ahead.  Abby is smaller than a Golden, can be bathed in a sink, is free, is NOT a puppy, doesn't eat a lot, and is housebroken.  So while it might have appeared that I was crazy by taking on something else, I actually won. :)  Oh and her poop is smaller! That is a big deal when you live on a lot the size of a postage stamp.

Let me tell you, it has gone even better than I expected.  She doesn't jump on you, rarely barks, obeys my commands, and is great with the kids.  She even won Trent and Jack over in just a week.  That is a skill.

So meet Abigail Adams Henderson.  Our newest princess.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Learning to Walk by Grace

I have been doing some thinking over the last few months about Grace and Faith.  I open my book with a short piece on them because I think understanding their relationship is critical to how we "conquer mountains" (the title of the unpublished book.  And, yes, that is a plug).  Anyway, I have discovered more recently that Grace and Faith are also critical in how we conquer the everyday.

Do me a favor.  Hang with my theology lesson for just a minute, because I think you might find some encouragement and a challenge on the other side, but the theology can't be skipped.

Ephesians 2:8 tells us that we are saved by grace through faith.
Colossians 2:6 tells that as we were saved we should also walk.

In other words, we were saved by grace through faith and we should walk by grace through faith.

Let's start with a few observations on grace:
1. I have seen grace defined 3 ways- forgiveness, help, and unmerited favor.  Which definition you use I believe depends upon the context within which you apply it.
2. I would like to argue that most Christians identify with grace.   Not only do we get it because we are saved but we are happy to apply it to our lives as well.  I mean who doesn't want forgiveness, help, and unmerited favor.  Sign me up- right?
3. I believe that we use grace most as we work out our salvation in the everyday.
Phil 2:12 tells us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling.
We need grace for that.

Hang with me.

My observations on faith:
1. Faith, simply put, is the belief that God is who He says He is and that He can do what He says He can do.  It is not that He will move in the way you want Him to.  Faith is rooted in His identity and His plan.  Those who walk in the most faith not only profess this but it is reflected in their response to that belief.
2. I've observed that the majority of Christians do not walk through faith as well as they walk by grace.  Perhaps that fear and trembling is too much to overcome.  It doesn't generally cost us anything to walk by grace but the cost of walking through faith can be perceived to be too great.
3. I believe we walk through faith most when we are faced with life's mountains.  Those mountains can be steps of obedience like going on the mission field or they can be handed to us like a cancer diagnosis.

Here's the application:

One thing I have observed in the adoption community is that it is filled with people who have a lot of faith for what God can do through the process.  They trust Him to come up with exorbitant amounts of money and for the process in general.  They align their will with His will and watch in awe as He moves.  Where they struggle is after the adoption when it comes time to walk out the everyday by grace.  

I have never been a long term missionary, but I wonder if their experience is the same?  I wonder if they exhibit enormous amounts of faith to leave everything that is familiar and safe to them and move to a place of uncertainty but then struggle once they are there to walk by grace in the everyday.

Here is why I think this happens.  Walking by faith is exhilarating.  Seeing God do, what others say is impossible, and experiencing it personally, leaves you wanting to walk in that over and over again.  I know when my life slows down and looks "normal," I panic.  I wonder if I am somehow missing God's will.   This is how I have spent the last few weeks and what God is teaching me through it, I am sharing here.

I struggle (and I don't think I am alone) to walk by grace.  My subconscious forgets that God not only exists and calls us to the mountains but He is also in the plains and that is okay.   It does not mean that we are disobedient or that He is no longer using us or speaking to us.  Plains and valleys often have a negative connotation but if we step away from that we can remind ourselves that most ministry takes place in the midst of every day life, in the plains, and between the mountains.

I made a little chart to help me process this. It is pretty self explanatory but the picture on the left represents people who operate great in every day grace but fear what faith may cost them.  The graph on the right represents those who don't mind taking steps in faith but struggle to find contentment when life is ordinary.

Message for Faith people- I don't have a secret formula for you because I am walking this with you.  I too love to see God move and struggle with the fear that my time is wasted when I am not participating in something bigger than myself.  What has been encouraging to me is the reminder that God is just as present when I am playing Jenga on the floor with my nine-year old as He is when I am standing in a Chinese orphanage.  I am praying for contentment between the mountains and that God would show me His glory in the quiet as much as He does in the chaos.

Message for Grace people- If you have been struggling with guilt because you haven't sold everything and moved to Africa, be encouraged that you can let that go.  You are still participating in the Gospel right where you are.  I want to encourage you though that if you can't think of a time when you have really stepped out in faith to follow God's call outside of your safety zone, you are missing out.  There is nothing cooler than seeing God move mountains first hand.  I encourage you to step beyond your fear and trembling.  Ask God to enlarge your borders and call you to greater things than you can do alone.  You won't regret it.

Ideally we would all look like this version of my little graph that took too long to make in Photoshop. :)  We would operate fully in Grace and Faith.

My husband made a great point when I was talking to him about this.  Who in the middle of a faith crisis couldn't use more grace (help, forgiveness, and unmerited favor) and who in the middle of the valley couldn't be encouraged by the faith reminder that God still is who He says He is and still does what He says He does.

May we all walk completely in grace and faith and may we find contentment and power where ever God has us.

Here is a picture from our every day (because the grandparents will want a picture).  Maggie teaching the alphabet to her new friend, Abby.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Girl Time

Ruthie and I took a trip to Dallas this week for her one year follow up since her last elbow surgery.  I really can't say enough about the team at Scottish Rite.  They have been amazing at taking care of my girl.  Whenever we are there, they make us feel like Ruthie is the most important patient in the hospital.   

This was our last appointment for a little while because Ruthie has had all of the procedures that they can offer her and she is doing fantastic.  I am going to miss our regular Dallas check ups, visits to see my aunt Penny, and girl time.

We always make the most of our trips by visiting area museums and restaurants.  This time we went to the Dallas Aquarium, had dinner at a great Chinese restaurant where we had Peking Duck, and caught up with a friend in Grapevine.

I loved how up close and personal Ruthie was able to get with the animals at the Aquarium.  She said several times how awesome it was and she is generally quiet about her opinion.  Clearly, it made quite the impression.

The check up was super, the weather was perfect, and the company was unbeatable.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Closure Puzzle

Putting closure to our summer has felt a bit like completing a puzzle where I am given one piece at a time with each milestone.  Every follow-up visit to Texas Children's Hospital where we are discharged from the care of another team is a piece of the puzzle.  Getting Maggie's IV removed was a big piece and another was when she took her first steps alone.  I am given new pieces daily and one of the best came last weekend. 

When Maggie was in the hospital, we missed our annual family vacation to celebrate Ruthie's gotcha day.  We were supposed to go to San Antonio to visit Sea World and just relax.  We made that visit up this last weekend and in true redemptive fashion, I think it was probably better than it would have been in July. 

The weather was PERFECT! Sea World was empty on Friday and the kids walked right up to all of the rides. That definitely would not have happened in July.

The day before we left, the front desk assistant at Ruthie's dentist appointment told me about lunch with Shamu.  I didn't know about that in July. 

Our family was able to dine next to Shamu's pool and watch a semi-private show.  The kids asked questions of the trainers and saw Shamu much closer than they would have had we gone in July. 

Maggie had up-close and personal time with the cast of Sesame Street but she was not as enthusiastic about it as I had anticipated.  

 And because we weren't in a hurry and did not have any lines, we had time to just stop and enjoy the scenery.  Sam even managed to charm a duck.

Just one more reason why my favorite quality of God is that of Redeemer.  Now to complete that puzzle. 

Monday, October 6, 2014

Why I Have Been Healed of the Need For Perfect Children - PART 2

I remember where I was standing when I received the call from AWAA (our adoption agency) in response to my application to adopt Ruthie.   I had applied to adopt a healthy girl from China and they were calling for my interview.  That phone call is similar to your first ultrasound when you are pregnant.  It is the "oh my gosh this is really happening" moment that gives you butterflies in your stomach and makes your heart skip a beat.  

I remember the intake coordinator asking if I was interested in adopting a child with special needs and me immediately responding that no we were pursuing a healthy child.  It felt a bit like the ultrasound technician had asked me if I was hoping for a healthy child or a child who would have a lifetime of challenges.  The answer seemed obvious to me.  

I hung up from that phone call and God said to me, "you might want to re-think that answer."  One thing led to another and we said yes to a beautiful  2 year old little girl with Arthrogryposis or as China put it, "both hands endoduction abnormality".  That leads me to #5 on my list of why I have been healed of the need for perfect children:

(numbers 1-4 can be found HERE)

5. When I Opened Myself Up to Less Than Perfect Children Through Foster Care and Adoption, I Opened Myself up to Participating in the Gospel.
Oh how thankful I am that I have not limited my life experiences to what I could handle, and thank you Jesus for breaking me of the need to make my life a safer place.  A life marked by steps of faith and participation in the Gospel is more fulfilling than any life marked by self-prescribed security. 

6. They Have Helped Me to Understand God as Redeemer.
My favorite attribute of God is by far that of redeemer and it is most evident in the lives of my adopted children.  God took seemingly tragic stories of abandonment and imperfection and used them to bring my girls into loving homes where they would be exposed to His love and truth.  Now that is good stuff.  

7. They Remind That My Chief Responsibility is to Raise Children with Good Moral Character.  
When they are chasing a spot on the team, a certain level of beauty, or another accolade, the first thing to go is their character.  The message we inadvertently send is one that encourages them to make their own name great.  Can you raise high achieving children with good moral character?  Of course you can, but I believe you will agree that picture is not the norm.  I want to raise children who succeed and even excel at what they are called to, but more than that, I want to raise good, God-fearing, faithful people.

8.  They are Teaching Me to Slow Down and Have More Patience.
Funny enough this one was added by my husband while we are on a road trip, with Maggie screaming in the back seat.  Yes, this is another one that applies to all parenting but even more so to kids with special needs.  We move a little slower with Jack and plan for extra time when we need to go somewhere.  Likewise, we are accustomed to putting everything on hold for weeks and even months at a time when someone needs surgery or suffers a stroke.  Special needs kids may achieve their milestones at a slower rate or take a little longer to do their homework.  Whatever their challenge, in some way they teach you to slow down, be patient, and give priority where priority is due.

I asked you guys to send me your own thoughts on this topic and my friend, Amy, wrote, "It teaches us to rejoice in the small steps forward and enjoy the little moments of greatness."  I think that supports what I am trying to say here too because when we slow down, we can take it all in, and find beauty in unexpected places. 
Our special needs children teach us that we don't need to fear God's sovereignty, but trust it and find hope in it.  It is good because He is good.  Ruthie Henderson's presence in my family is a daily testimony of that truth. 

9. God is Using Them to Teach Me to Find My Hope in His Sovereignty Instead of My Circumstances. 
There is an entire chapter in my book about this that, Lord willing, some of you will get to read some day.  That said, if I know God is good and I trust that He is sovereign, then I can find hope in the truth that nothing occurs outside of His allowing it to happen.  It is His goodness that allows me to turn my eyes away from my circumstances and find peace in His plan.

One of the hard parts about stepping out in faith is that you don't have the full story and you have to relinquish your control to God's plan.  God in turn gives you what you need to take each step along the way.  When we were given Ruthie's paperwork, we were told that it was just her hands.  When we met her, it was clear that her elbows and shoulders were involved too.  I am actually thankful that we didn't know everything because I fear that we might not have had what it took to say "yes".  God knew what we needed to take the next step and He guided us through the process, step by step, according to His plan.  

My friend Cara has a similar testimony and left this comment for me, "Frankly, looking back I am glad that I didn't know Sidney's ortho needs entailed more.  I needed to see for myself that none of it mattered"

God is good, His sovereignty is good, His plan is good, and Ruthie Mei Henderson is my daily reminder of that goodness.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Why I Have Been Healed of the Need for Perfect Children - PART 1

Okay I am going to open this one with an embarrassing story.  You are welcome to laugh at me because I find it ridiculously funny in hindsight too.

When I was pregnant with Jack, part of my litmus test for choosing his name was picturing what it would look like on the back of a team jersey and how it would sound being yelled from the stands.  I would run all of my potential names through the "Go _______________" test.  I chose Jack because, among other things, it sounded strong.  Other names in the running were George and Henry but they clearly didn't pass my shallow name choosing requirements.   I share this story so you can appreciate how far God has brought me in 12 short years.

Your story may not be quite as pathetic, but I think you will relate that we go into motherhood with all kinds of ridiculous expectations.  I remember thinking how cool it would be if I had kids who were so smart they could skip grades and be in college as 10 year olds.  You know, like the stories you saw on Oprah and then responded with the thought, "that is so going to be MY kid".

Thankfully, for my children's sake, I evolved and have gained a much more eternal perspective in my parenting.   While historically my greatest concern for my children was their performance, today I am much more interested in attributes like their character and a future that reflects their calling.  

Here’s my point.  If you know my family, you know that God had a much different plan for us than I pictured as a 25 year old.  I am the mother of three special needs kids and while their situations all took some getting used to at first, I can say with confidence that God has healed me of the need for them to be anything but who they are.

Now don't get me wrong, I am not saying that I am glad that my kids have special needs.  God hasn't brought me that far yet. :)  What I am saying is that I am truly at peace with their challenges and here is part 1 to why:

1.  In Their Weakness God is Made Strong. 
I witnessed this first hand with Maggie this summer.  When she was at her weakest, people prayed.  When God healed her, their faith was strengthened.  When we had nothing else to give personally, God supplied everything we needed.  To God be the Glory.

2 Cor 12:9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. “

2. They Have Taught Me More About Persistence Than I Have Ever Taught Them.
Around our home, Ruthie is the greatest example of this.  She regularly figures out how to do things that should have never been able to do on her own.  Most recently she taught herself how to tie her shoes.  She reminds me that I can do anything that I am called to do if I am willing to put forth the effort.

Phil 4:13 “I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.” 

3. They Have Introduced Me to a Community that is Not Competing Against One Another but Instead Encouraging Each Other. 
I don’t know what things are like in your community, but around here, it seems like every elementary kid is working now for a spot on a high school team or a place in their class rank.  The culture is one of competition where another child’s short-coming is an opportunity for your own child to excel.  It’s sad, but true, and unavoidable.  

My experience in the Arthrogryposis, Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia, Single Ventricle, and Adoption communities has been just the opposite.  We rejoice with those who rejoice and we mourn with those who mourn.  One child’s achievement gives hope to the other members of the group that their child might also excel in that area.  When one child or parent is struggling, the entire group rallies around to support them. It is a Biblical picture of what community should look like and an incredible group of people to do life with.  

Romans 12:15 “rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.”

4. They Have Reminded Me of the Need for and Power of Prayer.
Yes this is absolutely true of motherhood in general, but I believe you will all agree that we pray harder when our kids struggle.  I have sought God more fervently for my special needs kids and my faith has grown as I have seen God move in their lives and change my heart for their situations.  When life is easy, we become self-sufficient and seek God less.  With special needs kids, you rarely reach that point. 

To wrap this first part up and put a bow on it, Jack still has a strong name.  His strength is just a different kind of strength than I so shallowly anticipated, and I am confident that it is a better strength and fits him perfectly.

Here are a few pictures of Jack with his baby sister.  He is an amazing big brother and wants to be a cardiovascular surgeon so he can help kids like Maggie.  I could not be more proud of that boy and who God is shaping him to be. 

 So mom's of special needs kiddos, I would love to hear what you have to add to this list.  I have 4 more that I am going to add in a few days, but I would love to hear from you too.  

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