Sunday, June 28, 2009

Daddy's Home!

I'm home, thank goodness. This past Monday I went to Nashville for the week for orientation for my new job with the Department of Treasury. I'll be working in Norfolk VA, which unfortunately means we have to leave the OBX and are moving to Chesapeake. :o( A man's gotta do what man's gotta do. The OBX is a great, beautiful, wonderful place to live - IF you have a job. We'll let the kids enjoy the summer here at the Beach and I'll commute the 75miles each way until then.

The Lord continues to be good to us. I came home to my beautiful family Friday and got hugs from all around. I missed my P.D. the most of course. When I'm away, I can't sleep well, and we don't have each other to bounce our thoughts off of. Talking over the phone is OK, but lying in bed with a half-read novel on my chest while she's solving a Sudoku puzzle is who we are. It just isn't the same otherwise.

We got up early Saturday and drove to Fredericksburg to "picnic" with a few other adoptive families with children from Ethiopia. There were five families and we had about 30 some kids between us. We had a great time sharing war stories and laughs. I loved just watching the children play among themselves in little subgroups. It gives you a different feeling from just watching a bunch of kids playing at school or at the park. These all share one very important thing - They were adopted Ethiopian children.

Interesting things I noted:
None of us have been married longer than 10 years.
The girls outnumbered the boys about 3 to 1.
We're all middle class. (None appeared to be from the upper echelon)
We can all laugh at ourselves very easily.
It was amazing the number of commonalities we shared among each other.
Most all of us have both biological children and adopted children.
Most all of us adopted sibling groups
Most all of us adopted older children.
We all appeared to be rather flexible and open to change in our lives.
And each was open to at least considering doing it again.
So yes, we're all certifiably crazy - Crazy for the LORD.

I know I am loved and that makes me feel good!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. -- Psalm 73:23-26

In times of confusion, we can take comfort that while we may not understand everything while here on earth, God will be faithful. Everything we have and know here on earth is subject to decay, but our relationship with the LORD is our strength forever. He will not abandon, fail, or forget us.

Life- Kids - wow

This might be the first of many blogs or not! I just really know that things are different in my heart. And I would bet that I don't even know really how much different yet.

To be completely honest recovering from jet lag and finding my balance with 3 new little ones in my house has been an adjustment that I had no idea how BIG would be. And because of that, I really have not totally processed my experiences in Addis Ababa. I know that the Lord is trying to tell me things, and impress on my heart so many things from Africa.

I naively thought, oh- 3 more kids, how hard can that be? WOW- HARD-- yes, I am not new at this and YES, it is hard. This is our third adoption, all of them older children with English being their 3rd language. Each adoption at the first month, has had really different issues. How do you prepare for that???? I have had to be on my knees talking to God about this-- I am so thankful that I have a husband that is "totally hands on" and that I have a Heavenly Father who hears me as I cry out to him. (better that I cry out to Him, than yell at the kids.......)

I have wondered if my blog readers would like some more of our day to day victories and our struggles............. Would it help those of you that are in the adoption process? Sometimes, it is hard to share the hard stuff in our life's- but, I have said yes, to God to be open and try to have this blog be helpful- Please leave comments if you all want more details---

Juan is out of town this week, I am helping out at my job, (they are hiring a new me) I am packing up our house for our move later this summer, living with a painful tooth- (root canal done yesterday and the pain hasn't stopped yet) preparing for some 4Th of July company and family (yea!) And trying to let the kids have a wonderful summer at the ocean!!-- OK- it is not all working out as planned- BUT, I am in the middle of trying. ;)

At dinner, we as a family spend a lot of time working on the English-- I know, it is kind of boring for the "older kids of our household" but, gee- they all had to learn English too!!! Well, Juan is definitely much more patience that I am at this-- (Please come home!!) I am ready to just jump up out of my chair and grab a child by the neck-- I have only said these English words 60 million times.... OK- maybe not 60 million.. but a lot- and the good news is that so far, I have stayed in my chair-- victory for God!!

The kids are all doing great now at the ocean- They love it- (THANK YOU all that go to the ocean with me to help me with "eyes" on 7 kids......) I think we really might have another surfer- Justin is just so in love with the water and the waves..... He has NO fear of the ocean and after the lifeguards have pulled him out - not once but Twice... I think he now understands how serious the ocean can be-

OK- the blog didn't really go the way I had thought it would with the first few sentences- so, I'll have lots more to write!!

Pamela Dawn

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

To My Wonderful Husband, Father of my children........

I am so blessed to have a husband who ....

Who Loves the Lord God first, than me and than the children.
Who prays for me, and for each of the children daily.
Who showers his love on each child, so they will have an easier time learning to
trust in their Heavenly Father...
Who is teaching each child to go before the Lord in prayer...
Who is my knight, my prince, the love of my life....
Who talks with each of the children, gives them the right to question life
and who always answers each of them, truthfully in love.

Who talks of adventures
Who talks of life, its meaning; what love was for;

Who talks about how to improve the world, to keep it alive.
Who stresses the duty we owe to each other...
Who Laughs laud and long
Who sings silly songs, tells funny jokes and most of all...

Who laughs at himself.

My heart is happy, My husband is my best friend, my life, my love..
Thank you for all that you do for me, and for our family.
I miss you- come home soon!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

One month today!

It has been one month today that we met our babies - the new recruits to the Johnson Clan. WOW! If every month flies this fast, before we have a chance to get to know them they'll be bringing home their babies.

Spending all day, every day with a person, it's amazing how quickly can get to know each other. Now, having a language barrier makes it a little difficult, but that becomes part of the dynamic. We've been able to get around that barrier because Leah has been our resident interpreter. That has been such a HUGE blessing. A large part of the beginning stages of adopting older children from another country is the communication. There's getting them to understand where they are, why they are here, what are our expectations, what are the new rules they live under etc.

Even with Leah, we don't get a lot of communication from their side of the relationship, but they're kids. They're still trying to get through the shock of it all. Well, a trade off for having someone here to interpret everything for us is that children - and probably adults - tend to slow down their language learning process. The boys still have not learned to put any sentences together on their own. We still get one word responses and requests - "TV, toilet, bicycle, play, water, etc." Zoe, on the other hand, is making three and four word sentences, both in responses and requests. Obviously, that has a lot to do with being a girl, and some to do with her character.

Zoe is extremely extroverted. She tends not to want to be by herself. She thrives on being the center of attention, and leans toward being a drama queen. Her expressions are grandiose, and her voice loud and bubbly. When we have our family time at the dinner table, you can see that Zoe is just busting at the seams waiting for her turn to say something. (Waiting your turn is a constant learning subject with all three). She's quick to shed a tear if she feels offended or is hurt while playing, but she will quickly change gears when she sees it's not getting her anywhere. So that tells me she's adaptable. Zoe loves to laugh and will frequently laugh so hard, tears come streaming down her face - it's a delight to see. With so many new big sisters and brothers around, she's learned that she's not the boss anymore, so that's subsided greatly. Her tiny stature sometimes makes me forget that she's eight and not five.

Davis is very quiet, even among his birth siblings. He loves riding his bicycle more than anything else. He has no problem asking for things. Of course, I have no problem saying, no. We're working diligently on getting him to use full sentences - or phrases. Because of his extremely dark complexion, other children teased him a lot so he's a little more sensitive than most. He tends to be a whiner, something we have to work on - we're not family that puts up with whiners and tattle-tails. Davis loves to laugh, and is ultra-ticklish. You even look like you're going to tickle him and he starts shrieking with laughter. He was the first get his medical physical done and he's in very good condition(still waiting on lab results). With only one good pediatrician on this beach, getting an appointment is hard. The funny thing is, Davis is matchstick thin but his weight is "average" on the growth chart. You can count his ribs and the boy's knees are wider than his legs, people! Ethiopians have denser bones and muscle tissue is all I can say. I don't see this as being a life long problem, because this boy can EAT. He'll eat as much as I do, and eats faster than anyone at the table. That is a habit formed in Ethiopia (a long story that we've not quite gotten the grasp of yet)

Justin's extreme shyness is his major character trait. When he does speak (which is very infrequently) you can barely hear him. When he speaks or when we talk to him he looks down at the floor. He's slow to try new things (other than food, he's a good eater). He has a quick and easy smile, that will keep him out of trouble at school. I think he's going to be our atheletic one, and he loves soccer. He's a bit air headed (we say blond) so we're continually having to remind him of the family rules and expectations. He's also a bit clumsy when playing with the little ones, so we have frequently remind him to be careful.

I've started a reading program we found on-line, "Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Lessons" So far, so good. It's supposed to be able to teach them to read at the 2nd grade level by the time you get to the end. That will be great for Zoe and Davis. Justin will have some major issues, obviously. We are going to have some major education issues with all of them because they can't read, even in their own language. But hey, what good is a roller coaster without a few loopy-loops? Right?

We're ready for the ride of our lives. All hands up! WHOOOOHOOOO!!!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Are we there yet?

We are all familiar with that well worn question kids ask when they're taken on a long trip and they'll sequestered to the back seat (You know - anything longer than 15 minutes). As a Christian, I sometimes ask that question of God about my journey.

Well, we're not there yet. Along this road so far I've seen a ton of other cars, Some seem to be heading in the same direction I'm going and some in the complete opposite direction. Some follow the traffic laws and some don't. Beautiful new cars, old cars, big cars, small cars, trucks and motorcycles.

Ever so often you see someone broken down on the side of the road. The guy is leaning up against his car with his cell phone up to his ear. I guess he's asking for someone to come and get him or at least come give him some help. I still have the pulling in my heart to pull over and offer my help (I know little to nothing about cars, so all I'd be able to do is give him a ride or keep him company until help arrives). In life we see people broken down on the side of the road and we all think that someone else will come along and help the poor guy. We also remember what our parents told us about the dangers of picking up strangers on the road. True. In life when we stop to help a stranger we can be hurt by them. A lot of times we pass them up because we're on our way to somewhere where we "can't" be late...busy, busy, busy; Oh my, look at the time! But what about the possibility that the guy can't reach anybody on his cell and he's really stuck? What a joy it would be to be that guy's saving grace...There but for the grace of God...

On the road we see people driving fancy expensive cars - the rich and too comfortable. They're zooming along, oblivious to the world around them because they're talking on their cell phones. They're drifting in and out of their lane. Sometimes they're so distracted they start slowing down and that clogs up traffic. Distractions do that to us. They miss their turns, run red lights, and sometimes crash into other cars on the road of life.

We'll see people in old clunkers, huffing and puffing it along. They're doing the best they can with what God gave them. Some of them don't care that they can only afford a clunker. What is more important is in the seats beside and behind them. They'll be the ones who'll stop to help the broken down cars. They'll be the one's who'll let some guy merge into traffic in front of him, instead of pretending they can't see him. They're in no great hurry because they know that the destination is sure and they won't be late.

As I go along this life, I'm constantly having to pull out my road map. It seems the roads can be confusing. Traffic patterns change. I try to be like the driver of the clunker. Take my time, be respectful of other drivers, be helpful to the guys broken down and try to remember those riding with me are more important than what I'm riding in.

Just a thought - Jesus is NOT my co-pilot, I wouldn't want to fly this plane and be responsible for it. It's all His. That's comforting.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

How can I say no?

12 years ago when I took Jesus serious at His invitation, I said "Yes" to Him and gave Him my life and my life has never been the same since. I have chosen this road I'm on and I can not say no to Jesus. Oh, He allows me to choose to say yes or no, but how can I say no?

At times people ask us why we are doing what we are doing. People sometimes think we're crazy or foolish. What they don't understand is that to say no to a child in need is to say no to Jesus. To turn my back on someone I can help is to turn my back on my Lord.

I spent my first 44 years living my own life to please myself. My goal was to be successful - in the world's definition of success - and at times I was very successful, but I was so unhappy inside. I knew deep down inside that there had to have been so much more to life than just what the world viewed as success.

As I matured in my walk with Jesus, I got serious about what it was He wanted out of my life. He was serious when He said, "Take care of the poor and defenseless orphans." How could I say no to a beautiful little boy that had special needs as he languished in an orphanage in China? How could I say no to these two sibling groups of brothers and sisters as they struggled for survival in Ethiopia? So many others had said no to them. I would be saying no to God. My God is big enough to help me. He pours His love and nurturing through me so that I can be a loving and nurturing mom to these older orphaned children. I will not say no to God. I have to say yes, even if He places more kids in our hearts and minds.

Sure, I would love to travel the world as I did before them. I would love to buy another sports car. I would love to live in a swanky loft in the big city. That would be me all the way. But it's not about it? That is not what I am called to do. My life is not my own. I am bought and paid for, I belong to Jesus.

Maybe when my little ones are grown and gone I'll see that sports car or that loft, or maybe not. My reward may wait until Heaven. But, I'm not taking this journey for a reward. God has called me and I'm being obedient because I love and trust Him. How can we say we love the Lord God but live in comfort while the unloved go unloved? How can we say we love the Lord Jesus while the orphaned stay orphans, or while the street kids roam the streets? How can I say I love the Lord and stand idle as the poor become poorer and are exploited by the rich? Loving the fatherless, loving the abandoned and loving the seemingly hopeless requires a sacrifice.

This road will be long, lonely and VERY difficult. I may be misunderstood, unappreciated, and maybe even scorned by the very ones that have been put into my life. But Jesus NEVER said that it was going to easy, full of songs and flowers and earthly rewards. I know this, but how can I say no? The true Christian walk is not a walk in the park, picking flowers and singing love songs to the Lord. He put his here to love Him. To love Him is to serve Him. To serve Him is to serve those whom He loves. Parenthood is a life of service.

How can I say no to them when they need me - He did not say no to me.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Today the Lord blessed

This morning I went upstairs to wake our babies for church. I went in the boys' room, turn on the light and stood looking at them all sleeping, stretched out in all kinds of funny forms. I tickle the oldest one's ear. I yank the sheet off the next one's head. I kiss the next one's cheek (he needs a few more kisses because he busted his lip in a skateboarding accident the other day) I rouse the last one and tell them all "Hey, get outta my bed! This ain't no hotel!" Then watch as they stretch and smile at me. They each have their time table when it comes to getting up. As I turn toward the door, I say, "Come on, it's church time."

I go across the hall to the girls' room. I go down the age ladder. All my girls are my "Babies". I whisper "Come on Baby. Time to get up." I kiss her on the forehead. My next one is always cocooned next to her dresser which butts up against her bed. She had her arm draped over her face. I think she instinctively knows I'm coming in for a kiss and she makes it impossible. That's OK, she'll get plenty of kisses during the day. I normally put my finger in her curled up hand and tickle it softly until she responds. The last little one is my delight. I kissed her cheek, and forehead and then stood back to watch her stretch and curl like an infant. She sits up and smiles at me. I told her to wake her sister up. Now keep in mind, she speaks very little English, but she can tell by my expression and gestures what I wanted - and off she went to be the pesky little sister she's supposed to be.

We get ready for church, eat, brush, primp, prime and away we go! (We now have a full size 11 passenger van that Bernie Staples helped us get. He is a life saver for us because he co-owns Mid-Way Chevrolet in Sunbury NC. He got us a great deal and we knew we could trust him implicitly.) I am as proud as a goose as we walk with all 7 of our little goslings tootling along into church. We get the stares from strangers along with the smiles and words of encouragement from our church family. After church we have to keep getting head counts because it seems just as soon as I've counted seven, somebody decides to go the bathroom or to talk to a friend or something.

At home we have a Sunday lunch that Pam normally make a big deal of and we have light dinners. Light or heavy meals, Pam is a FANTASTIC cook, lemme tell ya! Everybody starts to pitch in as we get closer to serving time. The youngest set the table and the oldest fix drinks and helped bring the dishes as Pam serves them up in the kitchen. We spend family time together at the table with small talk and some light English lessons for the newest recruits.

The rest of the day is relaxing, watching the little ones play around the house. The second oldest goes off with a friend for a treat of Para-sailing. The rest swim in the Currituck Sound behind the house. Watching them scream and splash, chase little fish and scoop up small crabs is all worth it.

Next week is the last week of school - Summer is coming, with three more to enjoy it with.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Trip to Ethiopia (Part 5)

While we were out we went to visit a compound for one of the African Widows and Orphans Projects (AWOP). It's known locally as the Firewood Woments project. The women here make a living weaving long scarves on manually operated looms. We had been blessed to see this place the last time we were here and now they are much bigger and doing more. There were many tiny preschoolers who came out to greet us and each took turns shaking our hands and saying "Hello!"
The women, prior to coming to this place, used to earn money walking miles up the side of the mountains next to Addis, to gather firewood to sell on a daily basis. They would be fortunate to make the equivalent of about $1 a day. They would then have to figure out how to feed their babies and themselves. The project has come from the Lord to give them a way of making a better wage and having a safe place for their babies while they work.

This project now has a little school and few other buildings that we didn't see the last time we were here. The loom frames were made from slender, rough hewed poles. Now they have metal frames. The buildings are still rather dark and arcane, but I'm sure that can be remedied as funds become available. Each of the scarves sold will pay for so much more than the women could ever make selling firewood. It gives them a little more independence and provides a learning place for their little ones. This is Pam's passion - women supporting women - doing for themselves rather than backbracking labor, begging or selling themselves in order to survive.
Many Westerners are reluctant to help other countries when they believe that they are perpetuating a problem. I understand that feeling, I used to feel that way myself. Until the Lord showed me what real need is, what real compassion is and what people will do if given an opportunity to help themselves. This project is one of the best examples of people who are in real need, receiving real compassion and doing something positive about.