Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Divide and Conquer


I get lots of opportunities these days to practice my fractions. On Easter, for example, I took the four big kids to church. Someone who didn't know us stopped me and asked if all these kids were mine. I paused for a brief second, smiled, and said,  "No, it's only half of them!" 


We utilize this divide and conquer approach on a regular basis these days. Will takes some of the kids somewhere, and I stay home with the other ones. Sometimes we divide based on age: big kids go, littles stay at home. Most of the time Sophi is grouped with the littles, and Barrett insists he's one of the bigs. Lately, a certain little, brown-eyed girl has been extremely opinionated about being left behind with the littles, which often necessitates the boys being required to go into stealth mode when they leave the house. We also divide on the basis of gender: boys go, girls stay home, or vise-versa. Typically, Haddon is grouped with the girls, but I know it won't be long before he has an opinion about this as well!



Sophi's birthday last Saturday was an example of us putting this strategy into practice. Will had to work the whole day but I knew that I still wanted to do something fun with the kids to celebrate her special day. I decided that breakfast at Cracker Barrell would be just the right thing, but I knew I wasn't crazy enough to attempt taking all seven by myself. We also have somewhat of a transportation issue since I can only fit six kids in my van. {I'm adding this to my list of prayer requests.} So my mom kept my littlest two and the rest of us loaded up for our special birthday breakfast. Divide and conquer, or at least, that was the goal. My excited crew got quite a few stares when we walked into Cracker Barrell, and one older gentleman even came all the way across the restaurant
 and said, "I sure hope you tell me these are all yours!" When I told him that I had two more at home and one coming home soon, he really started smiling! Our restaurant experience went incredibly smoothly, especially considering that I was significantly outnumbered with 5 kids between the ages of 3 and 8! The only mishap was my fault and involved a glass lantern that accidentally got bumped! I'm fairly confident that the morning would have been much more lively had I not utilized this divide and conquer approach! Everybody had a good morning! Haddon and Evie got loved on by their Mimi, and I was able to focus my attention on my birthday girl and my boys. It was a win, win combination for everybody involved, except maybe for our kind waitress who had to wipe down a sticky, syrupy table and sweep up chards of glass and pancakes scattered across the floor!


While divide and conquer is not always the perfect system (I wish we could all go places all together like we used to), there are times when it's just not feasible or practical or economical to take our whole crew. There are also other times when, quite honestly, I'm the one who's simply just not up for the challenge of taking seven little people anywhere! Getting everybody dressed, finding missing shoes, brushing unruly hair, and getting out the door with multiple {and, at times, unruly} children is a huge undertaking in and of itself. Diaper bags, sippy cups, pacifiers, strollers, constantly counting heads - it's all very exhausting! (I can't even imagine adding one more little person and a wheelchair into the equation!) And when we finally get to where we are going, there is another crazy dynamic that we're still trying to figure out. With much patience, we are slowly learning how a child who spent much of her life confined to a crib and who has significant attachment issues interacts with new environments, new situations, and new people. There is a huge learning curve to this for all of us. Sophi is still learning that no matter where she goes, she always come home, and we are still learning how to communicate this simple reality that the rest of us take for granted in a way that she can understand. And, yes, it is still hard, even after almost two years home. But it is getting easier, and we are making progress. However, sometimes, it's just simpler and drastically less stressful for some of us to stay home. 


Divide and Conquer. That's just what we did on Easter morning this year. Most weeks, Will and I take turns taking the four boys and Evie to church, and while I really wish we could all worship together (especially on Easter), it hasn't been very doable the past few months with the combination of life with a newborn and the issues Sophi has been having. But, this past week, we decided it was time to try taking Sophi to church again. She was thrilled to put on her pretty, new dress, and she was beaming when we walked into the sanctuary. She loved the music and even did really well during the first part of the sermon. It was a special moment for me as I looked down at those four sweet faces and reflected on the Lord's faithfulness. I was struck by how much our lives have changed in such a short amount of time. Two Easters ago, we had four little boys, and now in just two short {but very full} years, we've gone from four to eight. How is that even possible???


And while I wish I had a picture of my entire crew at church this past Sunday, {we would have taken up an entire pew instead of just half of one} I know that's not what this day was about.

It's about Him, and what He's done for us! 


It's about celebrating how He has made us more than conquerors, even in the midst of this season that is all about dividing and conquering.

On Sunday, the half that was with me almost made it through the entire Easter service, and I count that a huge victory! The simple fact that Sophi was actually able to go to church was another victory worth celebrating. And the whole time we were there, all I could think about were these words. Oh, these precious, precious words! How many hearts have been comforted and encouraged by this truth!


Who shall ever separate us from Christ’s love? Shall suffering and affliction and tribulation? Or calamity and distress? Or persecution or hunger or destitution or peril or sword?

Yet amid all these things we are more than conquerors and gain a surpassing victory through Him Who loved us.

For I am persuaded beyond doubt (am sure) that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities, nor things impending and threatening, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:35, 37-39

Nothing can separate us from God's love. 

Not hard days. Not long nights. Not the mistakes of the past. Not the unknowns of the futures.


When we pulled into our driveway after church on Sunday and I saw the other half (well, almost half) of our bunch waiting for us by the gate, still in their pajamas, two of them smiling mischievously and one of them nestled contently in his daddy's arms, I was reminded again of this promise.

Nothing can seperate us from His love. 


Not rages. Not tantrums. Not fussy babies {or fussy mommas}. Not tummy aches {apparently while the rest of us were at church, Will entertained Barrett and Evie with an Easter egg hunt that involved the consumption of way too many chocolate eggs}. Not any sickness. Not any disease. Not even reactive attachment disorder or spina bifida or Arnold Chiari syndrome. 

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors


And when I was fixing Easter lunch a few minutes later and caught a glimpse of Faith's little picture on my refrigerator, I smiled. He reminded yet again.


Nothing can separate us from our Father's love.

Not things to come, no matter how hard, no matter how challenging.


No matter what.

We are more than conquerors.  




Not goodbyes. Not oceans. Not even when you feel as if your heart is splitting open. 

Nothing can seperate us from Him, and nothing can change our standing in Him.

We are more than conquerors.


In just a few short weeks, it will be time to divide and conquer again, and it will be hard

When I kiss my littlest guy one last time before I leave him for 13 days, I know that the Lord's strength will be sufficient. His spirit will comfort Haddon's little heart and mine, too. He will be with all of my other little ones when they miss their momma (and He will be with their momma when she misses their daddy). When I get on yet another airplane and fly across an ocean that seems to go on for forever, He'll be there. When I climb up those orphanage stairs one more time, alone, I know I won't really be alone. And then when I climb back down those same stairs with my newest little daughter, I know He's walking with us. As I'm carrying her, He will be carrying me. When she's scared and confused, His love will be enough, and when I'm scared and confused, His strong arms will be my support. When I'm faced with unknowns, challenges, a language that I don't understand, and 2 weeks in a country very, very far from home, He will be there. When the long flight home seems like it will never end and when the jet lag and the sheer exhaustion feel like more than I can take, I know He will provide just what we need. And when I'm not sure that we will ever find our new normal again as we transition into a family of 10, there's one thing I know I can be sure of. 

We are more than conquerors. 

Now. 

Then. 

No matter what. 

Always.


It's His promise.

Because of a cross.

Because of an empty tomb.

Because of His great, great love.

We are more than conquerors.

And that, my friends, is worth celebrating! 



XOXO,
Melanie

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Celebrating Eight



All this pain,


I wonder if I'll ever find my way?


I wonder if my life could really change at all?


All this earth,


Could all that is lost ever be found?


Could a garden come up from this ground at all?


You make beautiful things,


You make beautiful things out of the dust.


You make beautiful things, 


You make beautiful things out of us.


All around,


Hope is springing up from this old ground.


Out of chaos life is being found in You.


You make beautiful things,


You make beautiful things out of the dust.


You make beautiful things,


You make beautiful things out of us.


Oh, you make beautiful things,


You make beautiful things out of the dust.


You make me new, 


You are making me new

(Beautiful Things, Michael Grungor)
.

Today has been a day of celebration!


This beautiful little girl turned eight years old, and we are so proud of her!
I can't wait to share an update on how well Sophi  has been doing these past few weeks.
She has made so much progress, and I am so thankful for all of you who have been praying for her.


We've seen a sparkle return to those beautiful brown eyes of hers.
We've seen that precious smile and heard her sweet laughter more and more.
And we are so very, very glad that the Lord chose her to be part of our family!


I never in a million years could have imagined
what life would look like with
eight kids
eight-and-under!


Can you count them all?

One, two, three...


Occasionally, I lose one {especially my mischievous, littlest brown-eyed beauty}, but not today! Today, they are all accounted for!

Four, five, six, seven,
EIGHT!!!


This week we had even more reason to celebrate!
We are celebrating eight!

Since Haddon was born, we have had to update our home study, our medicals, and our fingerprints. We've been waiting for a call from our adoption agency, expecting to hear that our court date would be soon and that we would be traveling later this summer to bring Faith Ana home. But, instead, we got a phone call with even crazier news...

She's already ours! We've already passed court! 
Faith Ana is officially the newest Blackmon! 

And she's coming home soon! Lord-willing, I will bring her home in early June!


I will share more when I find the time!!!


In the meantime, these guys are keeping me busy!


But I wouldn't trade these precious days for anything in the world.


Your greatest contribution to the kingdom of God may not be the big things that you do - but the one little person you love.
Ann Voskamp



XOXO,
Melanie




Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Boots and Bottoms



Sometimes we are fresh for a prayer meeting but not fresh for cleaning boots {or bottoms}.


Being born again of the Spirit is an unmistakable work of God, as mysterious as the wind, as surprising as God Himself. We do not know where it begins, it is hidden away in the depths of our personal life. Being born again from above is a perennial, perpetual and eternal beginning, a freshness all the time in thinking and in talking and in living, the continual surprise of the life of God…

Being born of the Spirit means much more than we generally take it to mean. It gives us a new vision and keeps us absolutely fresh for everything by the perennial supply of the life of God.

Oswald Chambers


He's the littlest of the big kids, and he's the biggest of the little kids! Barrett, this little one, makes me laugh every single day! 
This is an actual "conversation" we had not that long ago!



Barrett: Hey Mom! (Yelling loudly from the backyard)

Me: Hey Barrett! (Yelling equally loudly back to him from the kitchen)


Barrett: I poo-pood! (Even louder)


Me: Oh, Barrett, NO, not in your underwear! (Mentally, bracing myself to clean up another mess)


Barrett: No, Mom. I poo-poo outside. Can I have my gum ball now? (The big boys who were nearby riding bikes quickly scattered! Maybe they caught a whiff of Barrett's accomplishment!)


 
He was so proud of himself! Hmmm....I guess I need to be a little more clear about what's ok to do outside and what's not ok! 

Life with a bunch of little boys {and girls} is never dull



A few weeks before Haddon was born, I decided that it was time to get Barrett potty-trained. He turned three the end of December, and although none of the older boys were potty-trained until they were 3 1/2, I decided to give it a try with him. He was pretty motivated because he knew that he would be rewarded with gum balls, and I was highly motivated because I could not imagine having 5 in diapers at the same time... 


{We know that Faith Ana will have to be in diapers until she's older, and we are able to explore some different options for children with spina bifida. And with the regression we have been experiencing with Sophi, we have had to put her back in diapers for a while even though she has been potty-trained since last winter.} 

So, between Barrett, Evie, Sophi, Faith, and Haddon, I knew we would be going through lots of diapers!!!


I am happy to report that Barrett was successfully potty-trained by the time Haddon arrived. We had a few messes and a few traumatic days, but, overall, he did great, and I readily add this to my list of mercies! I'm thankful for every small victory these days!


Evie insisted on sitting on the potty every time Barrett did, in part because she is fiercely competitive like her momma and wants to do everything her big brother does and also because her daddy gives her candy every time she tries. This smart girl has learned the system! Anyway, she is yet to be potty-trained, but I 'm optimistic that we will celebrate another victory with her before bringing Faith Ana home.



We've since abandoned the diapers with Sophi. Like mostly everything with this little girl, she always chooses whatever is easiest and requires the least amount of effort. 

{For example, she prefers food that requires the least amount of chewing. Without being pushed, she'd be more than happy to have us dress her, although at almost 8, she is perfectly capable of doing it herself. Unless we encourage her to say the whole word, the few words that she is capable of saying, she's content to just say the  beginning sound. I could give you countless other ways this plays out every day, and wearing a diaper is just one more example.} 

Wearing a diaper caused her to regress even more, and so we threw out the diapers and opted for cleaning up lots of messes and washing lots of sheets. Lots and lots and lots! Every day, sometimes multiple times a day, for more than 2 months, we've had messes, and it's been incredibly frustrating , especially because we know this is a way that she's expressing her anger and frustration and seeking to be in control. We have tried many different strategies, including rewards and consequences, and like many kids who come from hard places, we have had very little success with either. Finally, finally over the past few days, I feel like we've had a breakthrough. She's been dry five mornings in a row, and this is huge! We are definitely celebrating this victory, and we are so thankful for all of you who have been faithfully praying for Sophi!

Learning to follow instructions and listen to Momma's voice when we go for walks!

Celebrating waking up without an accident with candy and learning to use our eyes and concentrate to open the wrapper!

Thanks to so many generous friends, I've yet to buy a diaper for Haddon, which is pretty remarkable considering how many diapers newborns go through! This is yet another example of the Lord's faithful and perfect provision.


So, in lots of little ways and quite a few big ways, prayers are being answered. It's been messy along the way, but that just goes with the territory



Sometimes it's hard to choose thankfulness, especially when it involves something unpleasant. It's much easier and comes much more naturally for me to dwell on what's hard and frustrating. But that's when I have to remember that being thankful is a choice. {Thankfully} I'm getting lots of opportunities to put this into practice! 



Make friends with the problems in your life. Though many things feel random and wrong, remember that I am sovereign over everything. I can fit everything into a pattern for good, but only to the extent you trust Me. Every problem can teach you something

The best way to befriend your problems is to thank Me for them. This simple act opens your mind to the possibility of benefits flowing from your difficulties. You can even give persistent problems nicknames, helping you to approach them with familiarity rather than with dread. The next step is to introduce them to Me, enabling Me to embrace them in My loving presence. I will not necessarily remove your problems, but My wisdom is sufficient to bring good out of every one of them.

Sarah Young, Jesus Calling

I laughed when I read these words by Sarah Young, but it's so true and such a good challenge. There are so many times that I catch myself either saying aloud to Will or just simply muttering under my breath, "this is miserable!" especially when it applies to these particular kinds of messes! And, lately, the Lord has really convicted me to change my vocabulary and just to eliminate that word miserable altogether! I've yet to come up with a nickname like Sarah Young suggested, but I'm working on it. 
In fact, maybe I should commission the boys to help me since they have no problem when it comes to "potty talk."


Boots and bottoms...

Stinky, little boys and stubborn, brown-eyed girls… 

I'm celebrating each of them today, messes and all!

in everything, give thanks

1 Thess. 5:18

XOXO,
Melanie