Sunday, September 27, 2009

Sometimes, I don't want to feel like an adoptive father.

The one thing that I want more than a lot of other things is to not feel like an adoptive father. Oh I love my babies as much as life itself. I hug them, kiss them (to distraction), talk to them (to boredom sometimes), laugh with them (or at them), scold them and watch them sometimes as they sleep. But what I want sometimes is to feel so normal that I forget that they came here by our choice and God's providence.

I know that it will never happen, it is just a wish. Feeling like an adoptive father takes prayer, concentration, work, effort, strength, and more prayer. I can't just watch them in action and just laugh or cry. I have to think through the glasses of an adoptive father. When they tell me something, I can't just say, "Yeah, uh huh, that's nice sweety." I have to stop and think of what they told me and why they told me or why they told me instead of Mommy . When I listen to two of them squabble, I have to stop and try to think about all the factors.

It's a lot like the project chart...

Were they raised together before coming here? If "yes", go to action set A, if "no" go to action set B. Are they within about a year's age difference? If "yes" go to action set C, if "no" go to action set D. Did either of the children have attachment issues upon arrival? If "yes" go to action set E, if "no" go to action set F. Was child A raised with a father? If "yes" go to action G, if "no" go to action "H"... and on and on until I come up with a plausible response or action. This of course doesn't guarantee a successful outcome. Oh, on the contrary! But if I just hamfistedly handled things without giving these factors any thought, I know I would be wrong most every time!

When I persistently ask my girls for kisses, I do it for a purpose other than to just embarrass them. When I ask my sons to assist me in a chore, it's more than just raising boys. (I kiss them too, by the way). Nurturing my babies is more than just being in their lives. Developing bonds and attachment with older adopted children is a TON of hard work. As the saying goes...this ain't for wimps or for the light of heart. I have to hold my ego aside and forget the thought that I'm the daddy and they are just supposed to love and adore me. They don't. Though I love them eternally and unconditionally, I have to earn their trust and respect - and with that may come real love.

I have to measure my words. I stop and think, how will this affect them, how will it affect their relationship with me, with their mom, with God?

When I think about their possible paths into adulthood, I have to even ponder the possibility that one or any of them may not fully appreciate what was done for and with them. They may go on about their way and never look back. I've read stories like that. But the only way for me to get them to love me whole-heartedly is to give them my whole heart to do with as they will.

Jesus is teaching me life lessons through this whole thing. He adopted me, loves me and does everything He knows to do for me and it's up to me to stay with Him and love Him. I'm watching, listening, and trying to learn...but MAN is this tough and tiring! As the Army ad used to say..."the toughest job you'll ever love."

Lord grant me the grace and strength to be the son you want me to be. Grant me love and strenth to the husband my wife needs be. Grant me the wisdom and strength to be the father and dad my children need me to be.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Another day with the Johnson Clan

This morning we had planned on taking the kids to Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, but the weather called for rain all day- and of course, it didn't so much as a drop come down. I saved up all my per diem from my month in school so we'd have the money to go. Let's hope next week-end will turn out better.

One thing that kinda angered me was we looked at 4 different web sites for weather; none of them agreed except to say that there was a chance for rain. They ranged from 25% to 75% chance of either steady rain or thunderstorms. I thought meteorology was somewhat of an exact science. I thought wrong.

So, we spent the day catching up on chores - lawn care, grocery shopping, house cleaning, hair cuts, etc. While I was doing the lawn edges with a weed eater I looked over and saw the two older girls literally having a tug-of-war over whose turn it was to cut the grass. The three oldest children cut the grass, taking turns as one gets tired the next steps in. And they're fighting to be next. The novelty of using a lawn mower hasn't worn off yet - thank goodness. They don't argue over whose turn it is to wash the dishes. ;o)

Pam and I did the commissary trip by ourselves. It's amazing what parents will cherish as "alone time", isn't it? We go almost 25 miles to the commissary because the prices are usually so much lower than Walmart, et al. We still have to be careful because there are a few items that Walmart is able to sell cheaper. We can still get some items like napkins at the Dollar Store.

I do the boy's hair cuts. One evening of cuts, and you save the price of a new set of clippers. I'm getting fairly good at it. Except for D's hair. Long and straight hair I can't seem to get right. I can do short with no problem.

At dinner we discussed Ethiopian spices and cooking. It's neat to watch the fire in the kids eyes. Food is a good memory for all of them. They laugh and giggle and are all animated when we talk about food from "home". The oldest girls are planning on making a huge dinner for Christmas and we're ordering the spices. We already have the brown teff, and a thingamajig to cook the injera on. Mom keeps reminding them to fix her something very mild because her stomach doesn't do spicy.

They're downstairs watching TV now as the evening is winding down. Another day the Lord has truly blessed us with. Praise the name of the Lord for He is good, His blessings are new every morning and His mercy endures forever!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Cystic Fibrosis

Nathan, Trish and Gweneth (born just weeks before Trish had a double lung transplant).

CF doesn't get the press that MS or cancer gets. Most people don't even know what it is. They're working on that. Here are a few supporting souls. They had a list of sponsers two pages long. I thought that was great!

(Trish and Nathan speaking just before the CF Walk)

Saturday we went back to The Beach to participate in a fund raiser for Cystic Fibrosis research. A good friend of ours at our old church was born with this disease. Trish has a powerful story to tell - Please visit their blog, she and her husband, Nathan (the music minister at church) have a beautiful story and a beautiful family. The Lord has done mind blowing miracles in their lives and their lives have touched millions (literally) around the word. Trish has lived (in every since of the word) with this disease and is doing all she can to help with the fund raising and awareness raising as well.

Cystic fibrosis is a disease that causes mucus in the body to become thick and sticky. This glue-like mucus builds up and causes problems in many of the body's organs, especially the lungs and the pancreas. People who have cystic fibrosis can have serious breathing problems and lung disease. They can also have problems with nutrition, digestion, growth, and development. There is no cure for cystic fibrosis and the disease generally gets worse over time.
The life expectancy for people with cystic fibrosis has been steadily increasing over the past 40 years. On average, people who have cystic fibrosis live into their mid-to-late 30s, although new treatments are making it possible for some people to live into their 40s and longer.

The Lord's Prayer-- Our Prayer

I cannot pray "OUR,"
if my faith has no room for others and their nee

I cannot pray "FATHER,"
if I do not demonstrate this relationship to God in my daily living.
I cannot pray, "WHO ART IN HEAVEN,

"if all of my interests and pursuits are in earthly things.
I cannot pray, "HALLOWED BE THY NAME,"
if I am not striving for God's help to be holy.
I cannot pray, "THY KINGDOM COME,"
if I am unwilling to accept God's rule in my life.
I cannot pray, "THY WILL BE DONE,"
if I am unwilling or resentful of having it in my life.
I cannot pray, "IN EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN,"
unless I am truly ready to give myself to God's service here and now.
without expending honest effort for it or if I would withhold from my neighbor the bread I receive.
if I continue to harbor a grudge against anyone.
if I deliberately choose to remain in a situation where I am likely to be tempted.
I cannot pray, "DELIVER US FROM EVIL,"
if I am not prepared to fight with my life and my prayer.
I cannot pray, "THINE IS THE KINGDOM,"
if I am unwilling to obey the King.
if I am seeking power for myself and my own glory first.
I cannot pray, "FOREVER AND EVER,"
if I am too anxious about each day's affairs.
I cannot pray, "AMEN,"
unless I honestly say "Not my will, but THY will be done," so let it be.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

All my babies go to school.

Well, it was the first week of school. It was a relatively successful week. The youngest (Z) threw up at school on Thursday and had to spend Thursday and Friday at home. There goes her perfect attendance award, in the first week! They have all been assigned ESL teachers, except (D) since he tested in the highest level. (J) just took his test, so we'll see how that goes, and we figure he'll test past it as well. The others will have various levels of help from just helping with writing to EVERYTHING.

We live in an area with a lot of military families, so there are a lot of new kids in the schools, and that helps ours not feel so out of place. The one thing that stands out for them is the diversity in racial makeup. Ever since our first four have come here, they've been not just a minority in school, they were the only minority (Black or Chinese) in most all of their classes. Now they're in an environment of being part of the majority (except for the high school). Believe it or not, they now feel weird about that, they'll get used to it. Unfortunately (D) will always be in the micro-minority of being the only Chinese kid in school. Maybe by high school things will be different. Right now, he's making friends and that's great.

They're all bringing home smiles and happy stories of the day at family time. It feels good.

One week down and who know how many more to go.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Where am I

In church on Sunday, the pastor at the church we visited (2nd time) talked about where in life's spiritual continuum are we. He gave a physical illustration on a white board. There were the (what I like to call) "pre-Christian". He called them explorers, seekers, questioners. Those who have not confessed Jesus as The Christ and Savior. He advocated that those among us who were part of this group can attend classes that the church offers for "explorers" about basics Christianity. The classes teach about Jesus, the church, history, whatever. He also invited them to join in on small groups. Small groups are the smaller intimate groups that meet outside of church gathering times to meet, greet, fellowship, learn, get to know one another and mentor/lead one another to a deeper relationship with Jesus.

From this point on, I've added my own thoughts to those he gave

The second group were the people "In Christ". They are a large part of what the church is made up of. They can be new to Christianity, or long time followers that haven't really matured much since accepting Him. They might be growing some, but not significantly. They tend to ride the merry-go-round that keeps bringing them back to the same hard lessons that God has set before them to learn from. They tend to be frustrated (merry-go-round riding is not fun after awhile) It's fun for baby's and little children, but maturing adults find it frustrating and mind numbing after a couple times around. Life is like that too. The funny thing is that those of us who are stuck on the merry-go-rounds, can get off any time we want. All we have to do is take that next step of faith and start walking from there. Oh, we might fall flat on our faces on that first step, but at least we're going somewhere. We get up, take another step, look for the exit and away we go. The pastor suggested more classes, bible reading, prayer, and small groups to this group.

The third group he called the "Close to Christ" group. They are "following" Christ. They are seeking to get closer and closer to Jesus. They were maturing. The only draw backs he found were that there were many in this group that wished they got the undivided attention that the first two groups get from the church. It's understandable. To me its sort of like middle-schoolers who want to be treated as adults, but still miss recess. Or college students who now are expected to make all their own decisions - that what they've been hoping, wishing, and screaming to do for so long - and find that it's not all what they thought it would be. This group is now expected to lead and to serve the first two groups. All that Bible lessons are basically over. This group has learned just about all there needs to be learned in order to do what they need to do - serve.

Next week he plans on teaching about another group of even more mature Christians, he called Christ Centered. HHmm. Where am I on this continuum? Am I pleasing Christ with where I am? Am I still in high school or college? I sometimes think that as I do things that I believe Jesus has lead me to do, I then question, was it enough. Is He pleased? Is He proud of me? Does that make me the middle-schooler or the Christ centered?

When I talked about seeking to be in a "normal life" at least for awhile, I then fear that I will end up back on the merry-go-round. Is a life with 7 kids at home, 5 adult children, and 3 grand children and trying to lead my little recruits in a life with Christ "normal"? Is it extraordinary? I want to be extraordinary. I don't want to be a luke warm Christian. I want to make a difference in my children's lives, my extended family's life, in my community and on this planet.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

"Normal" life

It always seems just a round the corner for us, this "normal life". Pam and I don't seem to be able to exist in "normal life". In the 12 plus years we've known each other, we both lost spouses (one semi-voluntarily, one by death). We married each other (of course). We've made 6 major moves (not including moving around within the same area - then it would be 11 times). We spent over a year preparing to go into the mission field of China (God had interesting plans there - another long story). I went to and completed graduate school. We spent a month traveling around Europe using the Euro rail (with just backpacks). We adopted our first son together from China (spent almost a month there). We've adopted twice from Ethiopia (Dylan went with us once). Pam lost both her mom and step father within a year of each other. I've lost a job each time we were preparing to travel to go get kids (all 3 times!) All the kids come to us not speaking English (of course), so we've done the ESL thing each time. We got new kids, a new job, new house (new to us), new city, and new schools all over the course of this summer. Talk about pinging off the stress charts!

Tues is the first day of school. 7 kids in 4 different schools. 3 kids are at level 1 (out of 6) of the English language learning scale. We gave them the regular school's starting talk. We had the "no fighting" talk. I'm of the philosophy that we never start fights and that the other kid gets one push/punch free and my kid walks away. The next one costs the other kid a serious "throw down-make it worth it, cause we're probably gonna get suspended" butt kickin'. We had the "be respectful, be good, take your turn, work your hardest, this is going to be serious hard work" talk. This is what I think "normal" is. We'll see.

We'll watch as the 3 new recruits come home with big smiles from the new experiences, and blinding headaches from having to concentrate so hard. They'll be taking naps on the buses on the way home, they'll be so exhausted. We'll help as much as we can and do everything we can to make it as successful as it can be for them - without doing the work for them - of course. I look forward to the stories of the day. The new kids they meet. The new way of doing things that are different than on The Beach or in Ethiopia. The way the new girls are such snits and which cliques are worse than others. You know the saying about how young teen girls are the meanest creatures on earth? Being the new kids in school make my girls the easy targets, unfortunately. My oldest appears to be beyond that. I hope I'm right.

I'm settling into my job and am praying that it will be my last - ever! Well, gotta go. We're getting up in the morning to go to the beach for the day. I haven't been since June, so I'm looking forward to it. Strike that - it pouring outside and is supposed to rain all week!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

The Bigest Heart this side of Heaven

This is the most beautiful woman I know. Sometimes it doesn't seem quite fair that she's so easy to love. She's a giver with a heart bigger than her brain and sometimes I'm the only one standing in her way of just completely giving all there is - with nothing left to herself. I say it's common sense, I know it's selfishness on my part.

I love this woman so much, I could cry.

Daddy's Little Girl

Miss Prissy to her heart. She's been our in house interpreter (less and less, now).

Our willful child

With a house full of kids, you're bound to have one willful child. Cute, funny, smart - but a button pusher to her core.

SHY doesn't even cover it.

We can count the number of words he uses in a day. One day, the dam is going to break, all those saved up words will come flooding out and we're not going to know what to do with him

Mr. Daring

He will try ANYTHING once. He may not do it again after that, but he'll do it the first time on whim or a dare.

Killer smile

She's already arguing with her sisters on the English usage! And she still thinks she's the boss of the boys.

Too cute for words

We get a tickle out of teasing him about his take on life. He comes up with the neatest perspectives at times.

All smiles

He's the bravest at the skateboard park and will try rolling down (or should I say sliding down) the ramps.