Sapphire Sky

February 17, 2016

18 Months and Counting

Filed under: adoption, Life!, love, marriage and family — Anthony Biller @ 9:52 pm

Blessed be the name of the Lord
    from this time forth and forevermore!

Ps. 113:2

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On a recent trip to visit the Ark Encounter (it opens July 7, please buy tickets!) and Answers in Genesis, my friend Tim Dudley asked me why I had not blogged in about a year about our adoption. When I explained how busy I’d been, he gave me his trademark eye-roll and “Really? Too busy to write 500 words?”  (At the time, I didn’t realize that Tim hasn’t updated his blog in five years!) As usual, Tim was correct.

IMG_0022When we were first considering adopting six children; we went to the authoritative source on all things important – the blogosphere, and found several blogs written by families who had adopted large sibling groups. The sites were typically profuse regarding the decision to adopt, fluent regarding the initial stage, but then the posts became fewer and fewer between. That fueled my adoption paranoia: they started happy and optimistic, but then it went bad so they stopped blogging – didn’t want to share the horrors and strife that ensued. Or so I imagined from the darker crevices of my mind.

Well, having ten kids, six of whom we were given custody of 18 months ago as part of the adoption process, I’ve become one of “them”: after an iIMG_8121nitial flurry of blogs, I recall blogging once in the past 18 months about our return from the airport from Latvia. Now I know what I had before only suspected – it isn’t a desire to hide the horrors of our situation. To the contrary, the Lord has more than answered our prayers and richly blessed our family, as I’ll explain more below. No, it’s just that 24 hours has become much shorter. On the rare events we have any available, uncommitted time at the end of a day – I like to spend it in some form of a semi-vegetative state.

So for those few and far in between who might be considering large group adoption from Latvia, I offer some observations in no particular order from our experience thus far, a few of which may translate to adoptions from orphanages in general:

  1. Our Latvian children loved Ketchup® and sour cream, on EVERYTHING. Now, after 18 months, they simply really like those on most things.
  2. Don’t sweat the small stuff and they’re all small.karate
  3. Make sure you like your dentist.  Lesley was there at least weekly for about six months.
  4. Karyn Purvis is a huge blessing and resource. Watch her videos and absolutely first thing read her book The Connected Child.
  5. Kids flourish quickly and learn English even faster.
  6. Sanctification.  I wrote previously about how adoption further personalized the Gospel for us.  As I explain further below, in the past year I’ve learned how it also furthers my sanctification.
  7. Everyone has their eyes on the stress of the new kids.  The stress from the changed family dynamics can be more difficult on your biological kids, particularly where the “new” kids outnumber the original kids.  The process was at least equally disruptive to both sets of kids, but nearly all the focus naturally goes to the new kids.
  8. Structure is king a.k.a. we’ve made rules for EVERYTHING! It started about day 3 when we were consuming more than a gallon of milk a day. First new rule: limits on milk consumption.soccer
  9. The common guidance we received was to cocoon our family for most of the first year.  We didn’t do that.  Instead, we signed the new kids up for the same sports our bio kids were doing, which meant a lot of soccer teams, year round swimming, gymnastics, music and martial arts.  It’s worked for us.  With seven boys under one roof and many kids 10 and under (then), the activities gave added structure and plenty of positive outlets for energy.
  10. Our kids have become good friends with each other.
  11. You quickly realize how much you taught your children from the youngest years when contrasted with a child who hasn’t had the same, consistent level of parental involvement.
  12. The second law of sockdynamics: socks trend towards total disappearance. If you think your socks don’t match now, just wait.  Our kids have turned a fashion into mismatched socks.  I also try to only buy black sports socks for my boys since they can be worn with everything and for all occasions and all fairly closely match each other. Lesley also bought laundry bags for each kid to put their socks into, zip shut and keep socks together through the wash dry cycle.  The bags quickly went the way of half the socks: disappeared.
  13. Life is loud at our house.  We live the definition of boys: noise that moves.
  14. All meat is “chicken.”
  15. There are a lot of cool people in the adoption community.Gremlin
  16. Americans are friendly. (Our new kids tell us this.)
  17. Feeding candy to our little new kids was like feeding Gremlins after midnight. For the first year, we purged high fructose corn syrup from our house and greatly limited candy and processed sugar consumption. We also fed them a lot of Omega 3.
  18. Everyone likes Nutella and it makes everything edible and makes anything a dessert.
  19. Christ has cared for us in so many ways through his church.
  20. There are so many special memories.

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So many special memories.

One of our children on their first day in a new Bible study class at church – each child had to tell the class something special about themselves.  Our child proudly told the class he had a Mom and Dad.  The teacher, not familiar with us, looked puzzled.

That same child, soon after arriving with us back to the States, now our child being adopted, was puzzled and perplexed one night at dinner.  He asked earnestly, “Why when we were hosted was everyone nice to us but now they’re not?” I asked him what he meant. He explained that when we hosted them, our biological son Sean of about the same age shared everything with him and was alway pleasant, but now he does not share as much and they sometimes fight when they play.  “Do you fight with Joshua and David [his biological brothers]?” I asked.  “Yes,” he answered, which I knew having seen it often.  “Well,” I explained, “when we hosted, you were a guest in our home.  We are pleasant and tolerant to guests because we know that at some point they are going to leave. That is what it means to be a guest. But you are no longer a guest here.  You are family and Sean is now your brother. Do you see the difference? You are no longer a guest; this is your home and you are family.”  You could see the lightbulb turn on in his young mind as his face  lit up.  He smiled and looked down at his plate so his brothers didn’t see the tears streaming down his cheeks.IMG_8617.JPG

More hugs and kisses now when I come home from work.

One child often voluntarily gets up early and make me an egg sandwich, exactly the way I like it, before I leave for work.

Homeschooling ten children has been quite a challenge, particularly when six of them barely spoke English. Our three youngest had not learned to read at all (even in Latvian) while in Latvia.   To help with the workload, we incentivized the big kids, particularly with teaching the little ones to read.  We had small rewards for different milestones, culminating with our grand prize: a trip to Disney when we felt they had mastered beginner reading by reading through the dozens of early reader Bob books.  All of the kids did a great job and they all learned to read far more quickly than we anticipated.

IMG_5389.JPGThe trip to Disney was magical (and exhausting)!  We were thankful to have our good friends (and personal Disney experts), the Josephsons, with us.

Most importantly, the adoption of our children has brought us closer to our Father in heaven. We find God most when we come to the ends of ourselves.  Adoption brings me further outside myself and my natural limits, and thankfully beyond my abilities I find more of Christ and far less of me.  When I married my beautiful bride LesleIMG_4745.JPGy, there was a paradigm shift – living with and for someone beyond just myself.  I was not a Christian when I met Lesley so it was a paradigm shift.  Having children was another paradigm shift.  Not only did it deepen my comprehension of a deeper love (and a better understanding of the Gospel – the intimate, painful nature of a father sacrificing his son), but it also brought me into regular contact with my weaknesses and failings.  Parenting is good at that in my experience.  Adoption even more so.  I have found it somewhat ironic that “outsiders” sometimes tell us they see us as special servants because we adopted a group of kids.  Maybe that’s so, however, having ten kids has caused me to realize what a wretch I am in the flesh and how I am in need of a savior and in need of the strength of Christ in my daily walk.  It has been humbling.  Which is a good thing.PIX

If you are interested in hosting, see here, here (play the video!), and here. There are a lot of children out there yearning for a family, for a mother and father to love and protect them. If interested in adoption, see here. I encourage you login into these sites and view the pictures of the many children and read their stories.  If you are considering hosting or adoption, pray hard and trust God. It will not be easy, but you will be glad you did. He will provide.

God is great.

 

February 7, 2016

The Stranger on the Shore

Filed under: encouragement, theology — Tags: , — Steve Knaus @ 5:46 pm

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He had still not recovered.

But how could anyone recover from what he went through?

Peter’s world had turned upside-down over the last three weeks.

Three weeks ago, Peter was at the top of the world. He had traveled to Jerusalem with his teacher and close friend, the greatest man he knew. He had seen his teacher heal blind men and silence his enemies. When they entered Jerusalem three weeks ago [12], the entire city burst with excitement! Peter had known that his teacher was the rightful king and surely he would set up his kingdom now (see here and here).

Peter was with his teacher on that fateful Thursday night when, over dinner, his teacher announced that there was a traitor in their midst. This was not a time for celebration nor excitement. Their teacher was going to leave them (see here).

Peter knew that he would do anything for his teacher. He would fight for him and he would die for him. His teacher had told Peter that he would run away, but Peter protested. His teacher may be smart, but he did not understand Peter’s loyalty. Peter would never leave him!

Peter remembered that night, when they left the room and walked outside the city. He could still see the large crowd that met them on that dark night, two weeks ago. The priests, their servants, and 600 soldiers were all being guided by one of Peter’s own friends (see here). 

Peter had taken up a sword to defend his teacher. He would fight to the death for him! But Peter was a fisherman, not a soldier. He only succeeded in injuring a servant and was humiliated. He watched the soldiers drag his teacher away as he skulked away in fright.

Most of his other friends had run away, but Peter and John had gathered enough courage to follow the soldiers at a distance. He followed them to the High Priest’s palace and watched his teacher’s trial from the courtyard (see here).

Peter huddled in the crowd of servants where he could see the proceedings from a distance. He would never forget being questioned by the servants, how they were certain that Peter must be a friend of that prisoner. The servants confronted Peter three times, and three times Peter denied any knowledge or association with this teacher.

Peter saw his loyalty disappear in the face of fear. He saw his teacher beaten by the Jewish authorities. He saw the Roman soldiers bind him and subject him to inhuman torture. He saw his teacher hang on Roman cross for six hours until he died alone (see here and here).

He remembered early Sunday morning, when Mary came running in with news. She had gone to the teacher’s tomb and someone had taken the body! Peter and John had raced to the tomb, observing the scene. They saw the empty grave clothes and realized why the tomb was empty – the teacher was alive! He had come back to life! (see here)

Jesus told the disciples, on several occasions, that He would die and rise again. But they had been slow to understand Him. They did not believe Him until they saw Him in person.

Peter had seen Jesus, his teacher, three times since he had come back to life. Jesus had met with him personally that Sunday (see here). That Sunday night, Peter was with many of the the other disciples when Jesus appeared in the middle of the group gathering (see here). Finally, Jesus appeared to the disciples again on the following Monday (see here).

Jesus had instructed the disciples to go to Galilee where He would meet with them (see here). Peter and the other disciples traveled back to the northern region, Peter’s home territory.

We can only guess the thoughts that were going through Peter’s mind as he made the long journey back up north. Although he was glad to see his risen Lord, it could not erase the guilt and humiliation that Peter had felt when he denied him. Jesus had told Peter that he would run away, but Peter was sure that He was wrong. The other disciples may run away, but he would never leave Him! The others did not love Him like Peter did!

But now, this was a different Peter. He was now a broken man, who could only look back at how wrong he was. He had tried and failed. Now what could he do? Now that he was back home, Peter leaned on what he knew best. He went back to fishing.

Six other disciples joined him, and together they spent the night on the lake. Their night was been a failure. After fishing all night, they did not catch a single fish.

But there, in the morning mist, they saw a stranger on the shore. He called out to them, “Have you caught any fish?” They had been fishing all night with nothing to show for it. “Put your nets on the other side of the boat”, replies the stranger. The men obeyed, if for no other reason than that they had nothing else to lose.

On the other side of the boat, they found so many fish that they could not pull the nets back in! John was the first to realize what was happening. The same thing had happened once before, and John shouted out excitedly, “It is the Lord!”

Upon this realization, Peter stopped his fishing, put on his coat, and leaped into the water! Peter swam to the shore while the others followed in the boat.

Peter found Jesus waiting for him, with a fish grilling on a charcoal fire at the shore. There were no lectures or warnings. The other disciples joined them from the boat, as Jesus gave only an invitation, “Come and have breakfast.”

Jesus looked of the other disciples, then he looked at Peter. “Do you love me more than these?” Peter had claimed earlier that that he was more devoted to Jesus than the other disciples. Now Jesus asked him if he really believed that he has a greater love that the others.

Peter’s response showed that, possibly for the first time, he was humbled. He knew that he did not have a greater love than the others. He could not promise to love Jesus fully as he should. But he did love his Lord, and he knew that Jesus knows it.

Jesus repeated the question three times. “Do you love me?” Three times, Peter replied that Jesus knew that that he loved Him. All three times, Jesus told Peter, “Since you love me, take care of my sheep.”

Jesus had one more instruction for Peter. Peter had said earlier that he was ready to die for Him. Jesus told Peter that when he is old, he will die as a martyr for God. But with this promise also came the instruction: when everything gets crazy, just keep on following me.

Keep on following me!

Don’t worry about being in control of your own life. Don’t worry about what is going to happen to the others. Just keep on following me!

 

Remember!

  • Be encouraged! This story is about Peter’s restoration. As Jesus restored Peter from his failures, so he can restore us when we fail.
  • Do we love Jesus? Before we can give anything else to Jesus, we need to give Him our love!
  • Follow Him! When life is out of our control, we keep following Him. Don’t worry about others, but only focus on Him!

Hebrews 12:1-2
Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

 

 

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