Wednesday, August 13, 2014

All In All




Lately, the sights, sounds, and, especially, the smells in our home have been a bit on the intense side. All the kids have handled these transitions, including this particular rough {and stinky} stretch wonderfully, but Will and I felt like it might be a good opportunity for him to take the boys on a few special trips before they start back school.

Over the past few weeks, they've been able to enjoy lots of fresh air and plenty of wild adventures. It's just what these guys love the most! The older two boys went camping, hiking, kayaking, and trout fishing , and the younger two took a trip to an alligator farm, went fishing in Mobile Bay, and got to hang out with their grandparents. All in all, they have had a really fun and action-packed summer!

Of course, Haddon, my littlest boy, and Sophi and Faith Ana have no idea what they are missing out on. But Evie…



If she asked me once when the boys were gone, she must have asked me 1000 times.


Where are "Bear-tret" went?

Where are boys went?

Where are Daddy went?



It's what she says all the time

This girl loves her Daddy and her big brothers! It doesn't matter what they are doing, she's typically right in the middle of them.


"Mountain" climbing. 


Fort building.


Building fires.


Yesterday I caught her "carving" her doll bed with the large butcher knife that she somehow managed to get out of the dishwasher. 



Most days she ends up shirtless like the boys or with her diaper off, attempting to tee-tee standing up just like she sees her brothers doing.

So, when they are gone, she's not a very happy camper.



Where are they went?

Her grammar might not be exactly correct, but I know just what she's saying...

Where did they go? 
Where is my best buddy Barrett? 
What are they doing? 
When are they coming home? 
And, most importantly, why didn't they take me? 



She doesn't say it explicitly, but I know just what she means. 

Grammar is not my strong point either. It never was my favorite subject in school...

And like Evie, I've had my own grammar issues this week.



Consider it all joy...

I've been stuck on the word all. Is it a noun or a pronoun? An adjective or an adverb? Or is it a predeterminer? Whatever that is? {I must have missed that lesson in English class.}

There are multiple definitions for the word all, depending on what part of speech it is.



ALL

adjective
1. the whole of (used in referring to quantity, extent, or duration)
2. the whole number of (used in referring to individuals or particulars, taken collectively)
3. the greatest possible (used in referring to quality or degree)
4. nothing but; only
5. dominated by or as if by the conspicuous possession or use of a particular feature

pronoun
1. the whole quantity or amount
2. the whole number; every one
3. everything

noun
1. one's whole interest, energy, or property

adverb
1. wholly; entirely; completely
2. only; exclusively
3. each; apiece
4. even



I've also checked out a whole slew of translations for James 1:2, and each one is a little bit different:

My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy…  



Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy… 


   
Regard it all as joy, my brothers, when you face various kinds of temptations…    



Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,whenever you face trials of many kinds   



My brethren, count it exceeding joy, when ye fall into divers temptations



Consider it wholly joyful, my brethren, whenever you are enveloped in or encounter trials of any sort or fall into various temptations.



I don't know the original Greek or what part of speech James actually intended the word all to be, but I'm fairly sure I know what he was getting at.



Consider it all joy...

It's what the Lord has been teaching me all about these past few months.

All day and all night. There's been no shortage of opportunities.

All the little moments that have made this summer so full and so very lively...



All are sheer gifts.

Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.


It might not always feel like a gift, especially when it's coming at me from all sides {or coming out all sides.}

But, yes, a gift.

~ Oversized diapers. 

~ Plastic underwear.

~ Super absorbent puppy pads.

~Heavy duty, professional strength, all-purpose cleaner that supposedly eliminate all odors {It is helping, but I wouldn't say it's eliminating…}



Gifts.

Sheer gifts.


Giving thanks always for all things unto God.  
Ephesians 5:20

No matter what the source of the evil, if you are in God and surrounded by Him as by an atmosphere, all evil has to pass through Him before it comes to you. Therefore you can thank God for everything that comes, not for the sin of it, but for what God will bring out of it and through it. 

May God make our lives thanksgiving and perpetual praise, then He will make everything a blessing.

We once saw a man draw some black dots. We looked and could make nothing of them but an irregular assemblage of black dots. Then he drew a few lines, put in a few rests, then a clef at the beginning, and we saw these black dots were musical notes. On sounding them we were singing,

"Praise God from whom all blessings flow,
Praise Him all creatures here below."

There are many black dots and black spots in our lives, and we cannot understand why they are there or why God permitted them to come. But if we let God come into our lives, and adjust the dots in the proper way, and draw the lines He wants, and separate this from that, and put in the rests at the proper places; out of the black dots and spots in our lives He will make a glorious harmony. Let us not hinder Him in this glorious work!

Streams in the Desert


Lately, I've felt a bit like a broken record. Like I'm stuck on a wrong note. Like I keep repeating the same minor key over and over again.

This is how it feels. But...

Would we know that the major chords were sweet,
If there were no minor key?
Would the painter's work be fair to our eyes,
Without shade on land or sea?
Would we know the meaning of happiness,
Would we feel that the day was bright,
If we'd never known what it was to grieve,
Nor gazed on the dark of night?
Many men owe the grandeur of their lives to their tremendous difficulties.

C. H. Spurgeon 

The truth is a beautiful song is being written. Note by note. Chord by chord. One line after another.

To my untrained ears, it may sound a little off key right now. But I know and am fully confident that one day it will all make sense and all come together. 

I don't know what the finished result will sound like when all the notes are finally blended together, but I hope that it's one of those songs that puts a smile on your face and makes you want to turn the volume up just a little bit louder. Kind of like this one that I especially love right now


Feels like it's been miles and miles
Feels like it's an uphill climb
Sometimes I get weary on the way
But when I look back at where I've been
When I look back, I'm sure of it
I was right there in Your arms and I can say

Every moment of my life
God, You never left my side
Every valley, every storm
You were there, You were there
I don't need to know what's next
You'll be with me every step
Through it all, through it all
I can see You carry me

There are days I wonder if
You can fix the mess I'm in
Times when nothing seems
To go the way it should
But then I look back on every season
I can find there's ten thousand reasons
To trust that You can work all things for good

Through the wind and waves
Through my worst mistakes
Through the times I thought I walked alone
You were holding me
You were whispering
I will never leave you on your own



All things considered, we really are doing well. The summer has flown by, despite the fact that many of the days and nights have felt incredibly long. It's hard to believe that we only have one more week before we shift gears and get back into school mode. 

The three oldest boys will go back to the same small Christian school they went to last year. The other five will stay home with me, and we will do some very simple and basic homeschooling with Faith Ana and Sophi. I think it will be good for us all.

Our final week of summer is going to be a busy one. On top of the typical back-to-school stuff, I will also be taking Faith Ana to Children's Hospital in Birmingham. She will be evaluated by a group of doctors and specialists, and I am very eager to hear what they have to say as they help us come up with a comprehensive plan for her ongoing care. I'll be sure to share more in the coming weeks, but in the meantime, here's a little more about our newest girl…


She continues to have a sweet, laid back personality. She occasionally shows us her slightly stubborn and strong-willed side, but, so far, it is nothing like her Momma or two sisters. She is learning more and more words everyday and is able to appropriately put them together in simple sentences and phrases:

I like my sunglasses.
Move Henry.
Bless you Sophi.
Careful "BeBe."
Hush Faith Ana.

One thing that I noticed this week was that she has never answered a question with yes or no or even with a shake or nod of her head. 

Faith Ana, do you want milk?

She will either repeat the word milk or say all done, milk. I'm pretty sure she understands what I'm asking her, and I know she knows the words yes and no, but she rarely, if ever, uses them. 

So we spent this past week working on it - me asking her lots of yes and no questions, trying to teach her the appropriate way to respond when asked a question. I wasn't sure that we were a making any progress until yesterday. After she finished her lunch, I asked her to drink her milk. She looked at me and perfectly and clearly said NO.

I'm glad we worked so hard on that all week! :)


She has mastered all of our chunky wooden puzzles. She likes to color and play with stickers. She is able to pretend play and enjoys playing with Evie's dollhouse and babies. She loves watching Barney and Elmo. She knows everyone's name. We practice counting every night during diaper time {I will not elaborate on the specifics, but I will just say that I've learned to do things I've never done before…}, and she has learned to count to five and sometimes higher all by herself. She loves to sing, and she really loves to talk. She rarely gets upset or fusses, although she dislikes getting her ears cleaned out and she definitely doesn't like it when Henry barks loudly. Surprisingly, she has the ability to show empathy and compassion and if someone is upset or crying, she almost always attempts to comfort them. {This is very different from Sophi who laughs hysterically when any of the other kids are hurt, sad, or being disciplined.} She encourages Sophi all the time. Bravo, Sophi. And sometimes corrects Sophi. Hush Sophi. No fuss. {We praise her when she is an encourager but are also trying to help her learn that Momma and Daddy are the ones who reprimand the other children, not Faith Ana.} She loves taking baths, which is a good thing because she needs one every single morning. She still enjoys getting her nails done. Most nights, she sleeps soundly and falls asleep quickly. She's gaining weight, and she is slowly becoming less picky and tolerating more new tastes and textures.


Just today, she was sitting at the table eating her mush, and I noticed she was intently watching Evie munching away on her Cheerios. I put one in her mouth and while she usually spits out anything that's not soft or puréed, this time she left it in her mouth. She actually chewed with her teeth for the first time! And a few hours later, I decided to forego the mush, and I put a plate of finger foods in front of her. I've tried this before with no success, but today she gobbled up every bite of her peanut butter and jelly sandwich, baby goldfish, banana slices, and even a few MMs. I could hardly believe my eyes!


She's been home now for a little over two months, and I can honestly say that she has transitioned beautifully! I am so very, very thankful, especially in light of the difficult days we've had this summer with Sophi.

This week is another important milestone. August 13th marks two years since we carried Sophi out the doors of her orphanage in Shumen for the final time. With this precious and wounded little girl, the transition continues to be very much a challenge.


We take steps forward and then steps backwards. We try one strategy and then another, struggling to know how to help her learn and thrive and, right now, just to simply have multiple days in a row that do not involve major rages, fits, and meltdowns. Ultimately, we spend a lot of time on our knees, seeking wisdom and compassion. We see such hopeful progress and then experience such major setbacks. It's a confusing cycle as we watch her spiraling so far backwards. Right now, she reminds me of that little girl that we first brought home two years ago. She's back in diapers all the time, eating pureed mush, and showing many of the same self-harming behaviors that we dealt with those first few months she was home. And, if I'm honest, it's been hard and incredibly frustrating.

But, can I share something more with you? Out of all the experiences of my life up until this point, having the privilege of being this little girl's momma has taught me more and  drawn me closer to the Lord than any single other thing.

And that's just one of many reasons that I really can…


Consider it all joy...

When the musician presses the black keys on the great organ, the music is as sweet as when he touches the white ones, but to get the capacity of the instrument he must touch them all.

Streams in the Desert

XOXO,
Melanie

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