Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas

I have been working with the kids all month in an effort to learn Luke 2:1-20 this December.  We got pretty close to learning it all.  Simeon has learned it too but wasn't too cooperative with the video.  We decided to give this as a gift for Grammy for Christmas.  She loved it.  Enjoy!


Thursday, December 6, 2012

WALKING!!!!!!!!!!!!

No, not me :)  Liliana is walking!  We just got an update from her foster home that says that she is "walking much better".  It also said she has a new caregiver in the afternoons - Anglea is a grandmother who loves on the kids really well.  I am so relieved.  Not that I doubted her care for an instant, but I am so glad to hear that she is being loved on and making such good progress.  Her weight is still holding steady, but her face looks a little more full :)

Also, she loves books.  Is that a Meurer trait or what?  She will fit right in here and I can't wait to get her home.



Monday, December 3, 2012

Serving Daddy

Today, I decided to be ambitious and took the kids outside to help clean up leaves.  I'll admit they had the added motivation of having to have the leaves cleaned up before Daddy could decorate for Christmas, but regardless, they worked really well.  I was surprised at how helpful they actually were.  Myla hung out in the Mei Tai I made and Simeon alternated between helping and kicking through the leaf pile.  Both Elianna and Janaya loaded the 6 total leaf bags pretty much on their own while I did the raking and held the bags for them.  Below are a few pictures.  Ignore my undone hair and 5 year-old-angled shot of me, but I wanted to capture how Myla participated.












Thursday, November 8, 2012

Time to update...

I  have been ridiculously quiet around here lately and most of that is because.... well honestly, I don't really know why :)  I can't blame it on a newborn because to be perfectly honest, Myla is a sweetheart and has been such an easy baby so far.  I can't blame it on postpartum recovery because thanks to a hurricane, B.J. got an extra week off that didn't cost him any vacation days and allowed me an extra week to recuperate.  I don't usually get that much time :)

God has been good to us.  Myla's birth, though very intense, was also mercifully quick and recovery hasn't been too bad at all.  The kiddos have adjusted well too and are loving having Myla around.  The biggest problem with Janaya and Elianna is them arguing about who gets to hold her.  It is also cute to see Simeon, every time Myla is nursing, come running over to her pointing saying "Myla, muk!"  It makes me smile every time.  He loves when she hiccups or sneezes and giggles like crazy.  He also likes to poke her foot and make it move :)  There have been some moments of testing with each of them to make sure that the boundaries are still in place but overall, the transition has been really smooth.

My MOPS table members all signed up to bring us a meal and most of them made enough to get us two meals out of each one.  What a blessing it was to have dinner taken care of for that whole time!  It was also nice to try some new recipes too.  We have had several offers from random places to bring by meals and it has meant so much to us.  It is so encouraging to see and feel the support of friends, family, and other believers.

We have started back up with school after about two and a half weeks off (counting before Myla's birth too).  It is nice to get back into a routine, though I am not stressing about getting fully up and running on schoolwork.  We are working our way back slowly and giving grace for the days when we might miss a subject.

As far as the adoption goes, we have ordered all of the 'official' paperwork (child abuse clearances, criminal checks, fingerprints, etc.) and received all of those.  Now we are working on references, health letters, employment letters, and a few other random bits of paperwork.  We'll be scheduling to meet with our social worker hopefully sometime this month.  I am really appreciating God's timing in all of this because it would have been very difficult to transition two kids into our family simultaneously as the original timing was pointing towards.  Once again, I am reminded that He is in control and knows the best time to bring Liliana home to us.  It is nice to be moving forward on her adoption again though!  Below is the most recent picture we have of her.  She is still about 19lbs and a few inches shorter than Simeon.  Her head is only four inches bigger than Myla's (clearly not major hydrocephalus....).


I promise more pictures whenever I get around to uploading the camera.  There are way too many cute ones to miss that opportunity....  right now I have a baby to feed :)

Monday, October 8, 2012

Adoption Update

Unfortunately, there isn't much to post here :(  Everything is on a literal 'pause' until after this little one arrives.  Which has made me more frustrated than ever that I ALWAYS go past my due date.  Normally, I know that my due date means nothing and I don't really care that I go past it.  This time, I have been really struggling with wanting Pelah to arrive YESTERDAY - not only so I can meet him/her but also so we can get things going with Liliana again.

Knowing that our daughter is sitting overseas waiting for us and we can't do anything is really frustrating.  Talk about an exercise in faith.  God has been really driving home to me that He knows the right timing to bring Liliana home - regardless of when I think is the ideal time.  That is HARD.  I want to trust that His timing is perfect, and I know that it is, but my heart wants to push (no pun intended) things forward FASTER.

Waiting is hard.  Being patient is hard.  Having to wait for two children whose arrivals are linked in some way is hard.  However, I am being reminded that just because it is hard doesn't mean it is wrong.  God wants me to learn and grow through this process and while I am not sure the exact lesson He wants me to learn, I want to learn it.  So, I get to be patient - waiting for Pelah and waiting for Liliana and hopefully learning whatever lesson it is that God has for me.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Worship

I was so blessed by this as a way to start the day.  I am loving how many songs Simeon knows too!


Thursday, September 13, 2012

Both Hands Service Project

On Saturday, August 25th, a team of our friends and family descended on Ms. Shirley's house.  We were there to serve a precious widow by fixing things in her house.  Over the course of just under 12 hours, we cleaned gutters, power washed the house, painted windows, fixed stuck windows, repaired doors, replaced doors, painted doors, painted all of the baseboards and trim in the house, cleaned windows, bathrooms, and living spaces, shampoo cleaned carpets, painted kitchen cabinets, weeded, painted a wooden fence, mailbox, and post, and just generally looked for ways to serve.  We were so blessed by the family and friends who took time out of their busy lives to serve and to support our adoption.  We were blessed by the donations of everything from photocopying of letters (thank you Staples and Office Max) to the donations of food (way too many people and places to thank here!) to the paint and supplies that businesses and individuals alike contributed.


One of the neat things about a Both Hands project, and the reason I was drawn to it from the beginning of our adoption, is that not only do you spend the day serving a widow and blessing her, but you also raise money for the adoption.  Our core team sent out letters to all of their friends and family asking them to sponsor them while they worked on the Shirley's house.  All of those donations went to Lifesong for Orphans as funding for a grant for our adoption.

To date, we are a little over 50% of what we wanted to raise from this fundraiser and about 20% of the total cost of our adoption.  We are trusting God to provide for the rest of the finances as He is the one who called us to adopt Liliana.  It is wonderful to be able to trust God in this walk and not stress about how we are going to pay all the costs.  He has provided so far and He will continue to provide.  I know countless stories of people who felt burdened to adopt but didn't have the finances to do it.  They stepped out in faith and God provided for every penny they needed.  What an encouragement :)

To all those who have already donated, I want to say 'THANK YOU!'.  You have no idea how much you have blessed us - whether you donated $10 or $1,000 - each donation has been an encouragement and a blessing to us.  I know many have given in spite of financial hardship they themselves are facing.  I can't put into words how much God has used your gift to bless us and encourage us in this journey.

If you haven't had a chance to yet, take a look at the video below that highlights our day and consider making a donation to the project.  We can't wait to bring our little girl home to her forever family!




Click here to sponsor this project: http://bothhands.org/bj-and-rachel-meurer 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Fine tuning handy man skills...

Have you ever seen the saying that silence is golden, unless you have toddlers then silence is trouble?  It is so true.  The other day, I noticed a suspicious quiet from Janaya and Simeon which is never good.  However, I found Janaya doing what she should be doing (yay!!) but Simeon was still MIA.  That's when I heard water running upstairs.  "Umm, how did Simeon turn on the sink?" was my first thought.  Nope.  This water running wasn't the sink it was the TOILET!!

Simeon is apparently a very smart little boy (you already knew that though, didn't you?) who can imitate things he sees after only one time.  Like the time when we used the plunger on the toilet.

So, I went up stairs and found Simeon, binky in his mouth and the brand new (thank God) toilet bowl brush in his hand.  He was 'plunging' the toilet and flushing it each time.  Elianna fortunately was willing to run and get me the camera so I could capture the moment.  Which I did.  That 'moment capture' was immediately followed with clarifying for my little handy man that toilets are not for playing and a new rule in the house - keep the bathroom door closed :)




video
FYI: His binky did not actually touch the toilet and fortunately, this was the upstairs, never used toilet that B.J. had just cleaned the day before...

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Hymn Sing

My parent's started a hymn sing a couple of years ago.  It turns out they weren't the only ones missing the richness and tradition of hymns.  We get together on the second Sunday of the month, sing hymns for an hour and then eat some yummy, homemade soup and bread with dessert to follow.  It is one of our favorite Sunday activities.

We also sing hymns with our kids each night after prayers and before bed.  Yes, we sometimes sing praise songs and kid songs too.  We want our kids to be exposed to all kinds of Christian music - not just one genre.  All three of our kids look forward to hymn sings and to be honest, so do I :)  As we do every summer, we took a break and today we get to start back up again.  Simeon decided to get some extra practice in this week.  Enjoy :)



Monday, August 6, 2012

Update....



Yup, that's our baby girl :)  She is standing - though it looks like she is resting her elbow on the cabinet behind her.  Still, everything else looks good.  She hasn't gained any weight though - she is still about 22 pounds even though she is 2 years and 4 months old.  She weighs less than Simeon.  I just want to get her home and hold her!!!

Her update also said that she likes to be held and cuddled (yay!) and that she says three words now too.  I am thrilled with both of those updates. 

On the process front, we have our LOA!!!  This is the official Letter of Acceptance that China issues.  We had a PA (preliminary authorization) to be matched with Liliana and apparently they liked our dossier enough to say that we can definitely have Liliana.  Normally, the timeline for travel would be 10-14 weeks from today or so, but I am due in 9 weeks, which throws a monkey wrench into things.

I spoke with my agency today and they confirmed that it is pretty much impossible that she will be home before our next newborn arrives.  There is a big holiday happening in China in early October, so the agency is sending their last adoption group that will get through the process before the holiday.  That group will leave by September 12th.  After that, the next group probably won't leave until October 7th or so and I am due the 8th. 

I am coming to terms with the delay.  I just wish that our home study agency would be willing to move the process along at a reasonable pace after the baby is born instead of trying to drag it out as long as possible.  They keep saying to not rush the process - which normally I would agree with, but I fail to see how spending a few more weeks sitting around and waiting for them to write the report will help me in the process.  Oh well.  It's in God's hands at this point and I do trust Him with the timing. 

In the meantime, there is LOTS going on around here with B.J. settling into being the Assistant Principal and me trying to get lots of things done before Pelah arrives.  Add to that the usual business of life and our days are full.  One of these days I will get around to blogging about our two different weeks at Sandy Cove as well as B.J. and I getting away to Lancaster for a weekend, but for now, I need to get some sleep.  Please pray with us that our home study agency comes around and that God would prepare us for the weeks and months ahead.  God is good!!!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

One bright note.......

I heard back from the PA contact and was told that PA has no requirements based on what my agency provided about what type of visa Liliana will come home under.  Woohoo!  I'll take it!!!!!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

God is good

I opened my email this morning to find a new picture of Liliana - the first we've received in a couple of months.  She is looking good and starting to fill out a bit so her arms and legs aren't so overly skinny :)  She is so precious and I just want to get her home! 

That's where the frustrating part of today kicked in.  First off, I made some phone calls to the state to find out what, if any, pre-adoption requirements PA had.  The lady started to rattle off so much information of what I would need to do that I was getting overwhelmed.  Fortunately, I have a great agency, CCAI, who was able to provide some clarification that basically said that the information I was given was no longer valid under the Hague convention.  So I went back to the state person and she replied with a very confusing email that I think said that my agency was right.  I emailed again for clarification and am waiting to hear more.

So, while I was already frustrated about that, I figured I should go for broke and request the list of required documents for our home study update that we have to have done after Pelah is born.  Mistake.  I got the document and could just about cry.  Basically, we have to do all the paperwork all over again that we spent 6 weeks gathering in January and February.  New references, clearances, book reports, finances, letters from physicians, etc.  I am so tired of chasing paperwork and now I have the looming due date approaching.  Unfortunately, a lot of it has to happen after the baby is born (references, Dr. letters, birth certificates). 

I know that God will bring Liliana home in HIS perfect time, but it would have been so much easier, in my mind, if things had hurried up and we could have gotten her home before Pelah is born and thereby avoided all of this extra work and expense.  Not to mention the several months this will add to the timeline which will in turn mean that we can't bring her home this year and we'll miss any extra tax credit too (sorry, I worked for a CPA for too long to not think about that one).  I know that God is good and HE knows best so I am choosing to trust that right now - even as I am frustrated and overwhelmed with doing this all over again.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

God's Provision

Today, as I was heading out to do errands, I saw the mailman walking down the sidewalk and decided to wait for him so I could save him a few steps in this heat.  He handed me a stack of mail that was mostly things destined straight-away for my recycle bin, but since I had an appointment to catch, I threw them on the van seat and headed out.  While waiting for a rather long red light, I flipped through the mail quickly to see if there was anything of interest.  There was.

Two letters down was a letter from Show Hope, which, if you have done any reading of my blog, you know is the place that cared for our Liliana for about eight months.  We had applied for a grant from them, even though we were sure there were plenty of other grant applicants with at least as much need as we had.  A few weeks after we applied, they blessed us with a bunch of resources for our adoption preparation and lots of resources from Karen Purvis (another great person I have blogged about here).  I had told B.J. at that time that if that was all we received from Show Hope it was more than blessing enough.

I opened the letter, preparing myself for a 'We regret to inform you...' opening.  Show Hope has many, many applicants and can usually, at best, only fund 50% of the qualified applicants.  Here is what the letter opened with:

Dear William and Rachel,

On behalf of Show Hope and the donors who make our grants possible, 
we rejoice with your family as you step out in faith to experience the miracle of adoption.
(It really is a miracle by the way!!!)
Thank you for allowing us to be a small part of your adoption process.
 We are pleased to inform you that you have been awarded an adoption
assistance grant in the amount of  $......

WOW!!!  Show Hope gives grants that range from $1,500 to about $5,000 and while we didn't get a huge amount, every little bit helps when you are trying to figure out where $28,000 or so is going to come from.   It was such a bit of encouragement and such a huge blessing.  

To be honest, there are times when you just have to wait in the adoption process.  There is nothing you can do but wait.  There are also lots of times when I look at the total amount we need for this adoption and I really wonder where it is going to come from, but God so gently reminds me over and over again that He is the one who called us to this adoption and so I can trust Him to provide the resources it will take.  It is so good to rest in His arms and it is also really cool to see the different ways He is choosing to provide.  Show Hope is now one of those ways and we are again blessed by their ministry and the way they are caring for the least of these and fulfilling part of James 1:27.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Bit of an update...

So, what's been going on for the last two weeks or so? In a word, lots - hence my silence on this blog.

First, our dossier was delivered to China on June 20th and logged in the next day, which is almost unheard of. That was so exciting, but now there is nothing more I can do except wait and pray for a really fast Letter of Acceptance. Then there will be more to do. That being said, we are gearing up for a really cool project called Both Hands. We are working to build our team of people who will join us in asking for support while we all work on a widow's house for a day. It is such an amazing ministry and we are really excited for it. If you want to join our team, feel free to let me know :)

On the home front, I have been busy wrapping up the school year for Elianna and brainstorming with B.J. to vision cast and choose/design curriculum for the upcoming year. I have also been doing end of the year assessments which has allowed me to see just how far she has come in the past year. It is very gratifying, encouraging, and exciting to see documented growth. She continues to amaze us with how quickly she picks things up.

 Janaya is making nice progress with learning her letters and how to write them and her counting skills are showing nice growth as well. Her handwriting and ability to remember and identify letters was confounding for a bit - especially with how quickly she picks up everything else, I couldn't figure out why she was struggling to remember the handful of letters we had learned so far.  I was trying all sorts of games and multi-sensory lessons and not making any progress. Then I was talking with B.J. and realized that this is part of her vision condition having an impact. She functions so well that it is easy to forget that her visual acuity is still in the "legally blind" level. All of these books we have read and words she has been exposed to aren't really giving her the leg up that it normally would because she doesn't see the letters on the page. She can point to the words, but she hasn't noticed that there are letters that make up those words. Once we figured that out, we focused on getting her books with much larger print and having her find the letters that she knows. She is making nice progress since then, and I am very encouraged by the fact that we were able to figure out the issue. There have been a few more vision-related issues, but because she is being home-schooled, her teachers know her well (;) ) and know how her condition manifests so they can adjust the lessons appropriately. Her desire to learn to read is very strong and I know it is just a matter of time.

Simeon has been amazing us with his ability to memorize Scripture -especially considering that he really doesn't talk yet.  He sure loves to do the motions though!  He loves to be close to mommy and likes to cuddle and read - though running around and getting dirty and messy are also favorite past times. He is very good at getting his wishes known and he loves to help mommy and daddy around the house. I always love this age!

Below are some snippets of our school day pics - enjoy :)


Definitely working the fine motor skills :)

Taking her task very seriously..


Lots of fun :)


Math time

More handwriting practice

More math

Gluing the turtles in the math counting book


Good thing he likes to read along with his sisters :)


Also, here is the link to Both Hands' video if you want to check them out.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Exciting Week

I found out on Tuesday of this week (6/12) that my dossier review was complete and everything was outstanding.  It was like getting a gold star on the top of a term paper :)  I didn't realize until it was all done and approved how much of my mental energy was being spent for the past 6+ months on keeping track of paperwork and getting through the paper part of the process.  The best part was that the review was supposed to take 9-11 days but it only took 4.5 days!!!  What a blessing!!

On Friday, I got the news that the translation was complete and my dossier is on its way to China.  DONE! (with this part anyway).  What a gift.  It usually takes 3-5 days to get to the central adoption agency in China and then about 3 more weeks to be officially "Logged-In", but we are one giant step closer and that is a praise.

On another note, we found out last Friday (6/8) that we were approved to do a Both Hands Fundraiser.  I have been passionate about this ministry since I first heard of it several months ago.  Basically, we need to raise a team of 10-15 people who will, in turn get supporters for their work (kind of like a walkathon) only they will be working on a widow's house.  It is James 1:27 being lived out perfectly.  One hand for the orphan, one hand for the widow is their slogan.  We are praying for this fundraiser and right now, specifically for a team of passionate, dedicated people who will commit to helping make this project a success.  If you think of it, please pray for us as we work to develop a team and choose a widow to help.  I so love this opportunity and would love to not only have a great team and really bless someone in need but also raise money to complete our adoption of Liliana.  If you want to help, let me know!

If you want to know more about Both Hands, click here.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

I Will Hide God's Word In My Heart


One of many things that my mom did a GREAT job on when we were kids was helping us to memorize scripture.  She knew that the younger the child the more easily they can memorize things and pick up key truths.  I know so many passages of scripture because of her work and commitment to helping us learn God's word.  All too often, we focus on learning A,B,C's and counting and reading and colors and how to dress, etc. but we overlook what scripture has commanded us to do

These words which I am commanding you this day
shall be on your heart.
You shall teach them diligently to your children,
and shall talk of them when you sit in your house,
and when you walk by the way, and when you 
lie down, and when you rise.
Deuteronomy 6:6ff

I have done scripture memorization with my kids for a couple of years now - off and on and going in spurts of consistency.  When I saw this book suggested on a blog, I thought it would be the perfect addition to our family.  I would have a bank of 26 verses we could learn and we could tie them to the alphabet too!   

We have been fairly consistent with learning the verses with this book.  Since I am usually done my lunch while the trio is still eating, it gives me something to do.  We learn the verse with motions, which they help me come up with, and there is always a great application story to help the kids learn the truths that are contained in the scripture of the day.  The only drawback I have found to this book is that sometimes they only give a portion of the actual verse, so we have tried to learn the whole verse whenever we could, instead of just the snippet.

While Simeon was a part of what we were doing, I really wasn't focused on him learning the verses (since he was only about 13 months when we started), so I was shocked when one day he started doing the motions with us!  This is my little guy who still doesn't talk consistently, but here he was doing signs for the verses!  

My mom was right.  We truly underestimate what young children are capable of learning - especially when it comes to God's word.

Below is a video of him doing his favorite verse.  Ignore the goose egg on his head and the food all over him.  We had just finished eating... :)


Friday, June 8, 2012

Living for snippets

I know I can't complain.  The amount of pictures and updates we get on Liliana are way more than most adoptive parents ever get.  Last night, I got the idea to search You Tube in hopes of finding some videos of Liliana's orphanage.  I figured, if anything, it might give me a better idea of what sort of facility she has been in.  The third video I came across was precious and recent (August 2011).  As I watched it, I found myself searching for any sort of glimpse of our baby girl.  Anything.  Just like I had on the first two videos with no success.  Then, I caught my breath, at the same time as B.J. said "Hey, isn't that Liliana???"  I have replayed that video about twenty different times.  I am 99% positive that the little girl that you get a glimpse of on the right and then she crawls across behind the kids crowding at the door is Liliana.  She had just been returned to the SWI for about a month at that point.  What a surprise glimpse and what a gift from God.  Enjoy :)


Thursday, June 7, 2012

Fun with school

While we are early in our homeschooling careers, one thing that B.J. and I are both committed to is making learning fun, engaging, multi-sensory, and more than just workbooks. We tend to create our own curriculum from a variety of sources and adapt it to our homeschooling. One of my favorites is Handwriting Without Tears. It has worked very well for Elianna, who is just finishing up her second year with the program, but I am learning more of the benefits of the multi-sensory approach with Janaya. With her achromatopsia, the varied approach to learning the letters works well. She learns to form letters with lines and curves (pieces of wood), erases with a wet little sponge piece and a dry piece when I write letters on the special chalkboard (so she gets to practice proper formation without having to remember how to make the letter at first), she gets to use playdough, chalk, and magnet boards too. There is also a CD, which, if you know Janaya, you know how much she loves music. Below is a video of all of her siblings getting in on the action.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

New Pictures

I love Swallow's Nest and the work that they are doing with orphans in China.  If you get a chance to check out their ministry, I highly recommend it and you can click here.  As a sponsor of Liliana, we get monthly updates and even a few pictures.  I had emailed Pam (one of the founders) a few general questions this evening and a few minutes later I had the answers (in spite of her dad being very ill - please pray for him!) and included with the answers were three pictures!

We know that Liliana is very delayed, though we don't know the exact cause.  What we do know is that we serve a God who has been and is orchestrating every part of this adoption and that He has called us to be her parents.  I know the road ahead will not be easy, but I can't wait to see what He has in store for her.
I love the expressions on these girls!!!



Saturday, June 2, 2012

Torn...

We mailed our I797 (the last piece left for our dossier) to NY on Friday of last week.  It arrived on Saturday, but the consulate was closed on Monday.  I paid the extra fee to get next day sealing instead of 5 days and also express mail for the return, so I was expecting it back on Thursday.  Nothing.  Friday?  Nothing.  Friday evening I got a call that it would arrive on Saturday.  Today.

The post man didn't deliver it in the morning to our door, like he did the last time, so I was a little frustrated.  I went out to check the mailbox this afternoon and saw the express mail envelope stuffed in our (rather tiny) mailbox.  Frustrated that the mailman didn't bring it to the door, I was still excited that it was finally here. 

Carefully, I went to pull the fabulous, here's-how-you-open-these-envelopes strings and it happened.  The entire mailer tore.  Sure enough, it tore the very paper I had been waiting for this whole week.  I barely kept from crying (though I did later). 

It wasn't until that moment that I realized how much this dossier process has been weighing on me.  I have been collecting documents, following up with people who I have paid a small fortune for who don't do their jobs efficiently, and trying to stay on top of all the details of this paper chase since December.  For almost seven months, I have had a portion of my life consumed by this never-ending paper chase and for a brief moment, the end was in sight.  And then it disappeared. 

As it looks now, I will have to redo the sealing process for this document.  Which means dragging all three kiddos to the bank to have a new form notarized (fortunately, this one is notarized as a COPY and not the original!!), then pay to have it sent to Harrisburg for the Secretary of State to attach a letter saying that the notary is really a genuine notary.  Then I have to mail it (or go to the NY Consulate) and pay for the Chinese Consulate to say that this Secretary of State was really the Secretary of State of PA when this document was processed.  More expense?  Yes.  But probably more importantly, more time.  More time until we get to bring our little girl home and more time until I can get this beast of a paper chase off my back.  I could use some prayers on this because I am really discouraged/frustrated right now. 

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Connected Child






Earlier this month, B.J. and I had the privilege of 'attending' the Orphan Summit at Saddleback Church online through streaming video.  This was a three day conference that featured speakers like Dennis and Barbara Rainey, Rick Warren, Carolyn Twietmeyer, and Karen Purvis.  Fortunately for us, Karen Purvis' breakout session happened to be scheduled in the main conference auditorium, so they streamed it.  She was fascinating to say the least.  As a researcher with an earned PhD in Child Development, she has studied children from 'hard places' as she refers to them.  These are kids who didn't have the advantage of a parent to nurture and care for them as infants or those children who suffered trauma and/or abuse.  These are your typical adopted kids. She spoke about the different brain transmitters and how they are completely out of balance in these children.  She talked about how children who have come from hard places can't access their whole brain because they are living in 'fight or flight' mode and only have limited access to anything other than the brain stem.  We could have listened to her for hours.  

Of great interest to me was her talking about the attachment cycle where an infant expresses a need (i.e. cries) and the caregiver responds and soothes the child (meets the need - food, change, comfort, company, etc.).  She talked about how this happens over 100,000 times in the first year of life and the child then learns that the world is safe, that adults can be trusted, and that they can be relied upon.  This is the foundation for healthy attachment.  Children in orphanages or abused/mistreated children don't have this cycle being met.  Instead, they have a need and they express it (cry) and they are either ignored or hurt which teaches them that the world is not a safe place and that they can't rely on anyone but themselves.  It also causes them to spend most of their time in fight or flight mode which actually destroys brain connections (from the constant flood of cortisol and other stress hormones).  

The reason I was so fascinated with her teaching, besides the fact that we are adopting a little girl from an institution where she probably has not had her early needs met, is that I see a lot of similarities in the maladaptive behaviors of children from hard places and children from ordinary families. Our society has moved away from parenting children the way God parents us and instead has moved towards a 'plastic parenting' model where babies are scheduled and every attempt is made to allow the parents' life to continue as 'normal' even after the arrival of the newborn.

How God parents us is dependent on what life stage we are in. As newborn Christians, God is responsive and near. He doesn't go silent on a new believer. He doesn't let them struggle through a difficult time without a sense of His nearness. He is there. He responds. He meets the needs.

As we mature as believers, how God parents us changes, much like the shifts that parents need to make as children grow older. Just like a preschooler working on a challenging puzzle, sometimes, we are struggling through something in our life. We ask God for help, but no help seems to come. God is there, but we aren't getting the help we thought we would get. Just like that preschooler who asks mommy for help and mommy encourages the child to keep trying and to remember how he/she did puzzles in the past with mommy's help, God sometimes lets us struggle and doesn't rescue us because He knows that because of our foundation in Christ, in the struggle, we can grow. He is there and He won't let us struggle beyond what our maturity is capable of, but sometimes, He allows us to be tested.

So much of parenting today is about us. We want our kids to sleep through the night – so we can finally get some sleep. We want our kids to eat/nurse well – so we can get a break. We want our kids to self-entertain – so we can have some time to ourselves. We want our kids to go in the nursery at church – so we can 'worship God without distraction'. We want to continue to live our lives in the same way we did before our children came along and we get annoyed at this little bundle of demandingness so that when someone/something comes along that promises to make this whole parenting thing easier, we jump right in. We excuse it by saying that to be 'good parents' we have to meet our own needs. We buy the swings, gliders, bouncy seats, vibrating toys, exersaucers, bumbos, car seats, strollers, educational videos in hopes that these will deliver on the promise of 'normalcy', but there is nothing about parenting that is normal. Or maybe we buy these things so that we can help our child to grow and reach their full potential without realizing that what our children need is us. Just like we need a relationship with God – not just religion, our kids need us – not stuff. God uses our children to refine us, grow us, show us our selfishness, and allow us to become more like Him. God doesn't take a new Christian and put them in a fun youth group and then sign off. He doesn't pass that responsibility off on others. He is God the Father and He parents us, tenderly, wisely, intentionally, so that we can grow and mature as believers.

Much of what Dr. Purvis deals with in her book is how to reach children who have not had their early needs met. It is a powerful book and many of the behaviors that she deals with and explains in her book match up to ordinary kids in today's society as well as kids from hard places. It makes you wonder if there is so much similarity in behaviors between both groups of kids then maybe we as parents need to take a hard look at our parenting approach and see if it is truly lining up with a Godly parenting model or if we have bought into the modern parenting that is destroying this generation of children.  



I think every parent should read "The Connected Child" - whether they are adopting or not.  It provides invaluable information about the way the brain forms and why interactions with parents are the foundation for a lifelong ability to learn and connect with others.  Mom and Dad are more important than they realize and this book helps to show why.  

If you want to read more about how to interact and play with your child and the importance of those early interactions, I also recommend "Bright from the Start" which also discusses the need for the parents to play with and interact with their children and gives lots of ideas to get you started.  

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

New pictures

Last night, I decided to check my email one last time before bed. I wasn't expecting anything fun, but I was surprised. Waiting in my inbox was an email from Lee - who is on the board with Swallow's Nest and currently in China adopting her little guy. She had volunteered to take a care package over to Liliana for us.

Mom and I went shopping to buy material and mom sewed a beautiful, cozy, warm blankie for Liliana. B.J. and I made a photo album so she could start to get used to what we look like, and a box of Teddy Grahams, which I had been informed, were a favorite with the kids in her house. We packaged everything, along with a card and letter and sent it off to Ohio to have it carried to China.

Below are five pictures I received. According to Lee, Liliana is very darling but quiet and shy and not a fan of strangers at all (not a surprise, based on what we have known so far). I think that is why she looks so hesitant in the pictures. She said she looks healthy and well nourished and can sit quite stably on her own.

It is always such a gift when we receive any word of our daughter. It is hard to trust God and His timing in all of this. We are still praying for a miracle time line that would allow us to get her home before Pelah's arrival - impossible based on current time lines, but with God we know all things are possible. However, we are also praying and trusting that Liliana will get to come home in HIS perfect time - not our own.

In the meantime, God is continuing to bless us and provide encouragement along this journey. In the past two weeks, He has blessed us with two different people blessing us financially in support of our adoption. He has also blessed us with pictures and updates and the knowledge that so many people are joining us in prayer for Liliana. It is amazing how tenderly He is guiding us on this path He has called us to. We serve an Awesome God!

Enjoy the pictures. The American lady holding Liliana is Lee and on the left is her daughter who is traveling with her.





Tuesday, April 3, 2012

I promised these pictures days ago.....

Here are a bunch of the pictures I received from Liliana Cai's birthday party. It looks like she had a blast, and I am so happy that she had a birthday celebration. I am also so grateful for Swallow's Nest and the wonderful things they are doing with orphans in China. Look at how well Liliana is standing while holding onto things - according to her file - she can't do that :)




Gorgeous birthday cake :)


Birthday girl!


Look at that cake...





Blowing out the candles


New baby doll


Giving kisses


Aww, this reminds me of Simeon....


I love the expression on the little one with the crown on.... :)





Group shot 1 - I can't even get 3 kids in a picture...


Group shot 2 - Liliana looks like "what is that girl doing?"


Alright - move the screamer to the back and here we go :)