Smelly shoes lined the floor. My bare feet stick to the dirty surface that hadn’t been swept since breakfast. As socks are always missing, they are a rare delicacy only to be enjoyed on speci…
March 18, 2016
February 17, 2016
Blessed be the name of the Lord
from this time forth and forevermore!
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.
When 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 initial 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:
- Our Latvian children loved Ketchup® and sour cream, on EVERYTHING. Now, after 18 months, they simply really like those on most things.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff and they’re all small.
- Make sure you like your dentist. Lesley was there at least weekly for about six months.
- Karyn Purvis is a huge blessing and resource. Watch her videos and absolutely first thing read her book The Connected Child.
- Kids flourish quickly and learn English even faster.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Our kids have become good friends with each other.
- 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.
- 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.
- Life is loud at our house. We live the definition of boys: noise that moves.
- All meat is “chicken.”
- There are a lot of cool people in the adoption community.
- Americans are friendly. (Our new kids tell us this.)
- 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.
- Everyone likes Nutella and it makes everything edible and makes anything a dessert.
- Christ has cared for us in so many ways through his church.
- There are so many special memories.
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.
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.
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 Lesley, 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.
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.
April 24, 2014
Long time Christian friends, fellow triathlete and former Army tell of their first month with adoptive daughter … the pictures show it all … click over to original to see the last picture!
August 29, 2012
I agree with Travis’ highlighting how a culture that trashes life contrasts so much with the nature and character of the God of all Creation. Of course, the trashing of human life is not just a metaphor, as Melissa Ohden’s powerful testimony explains:
The Susan B. Anthony List produced Ms. Ohden’s story, which story is tragically under reported. SBA explains:
“In light of the recent national discussion over abortion, it’s important Americans know the President’s best-kept secret: his extreme record on abortion. Melissa Ohden’s powerful story draws a stark contrast to his unbending support of abortion and the abortion industry and reveals the human face to this debate.” said SBA List President Marjorie Dannenfelser. “President Obama’s appalling record on abortion is not just limited to his four votes to deny rights to abortion survivors but spans to his recent heartless refusal to support bans on sex-selection and late-term abortions. These actions fly in the face of mainstream American views and run counter to the President’s first term pre-election talk of finding common ground. Recent polling reveals the majority of Americans support bans on these horrific practices.”
Related, the President is reportedly funneling more than $400,000 of federal money to Planned Parenthood in North Carolina in response to the N.C. General Assembly voting to discontinue $340,000 of N.C. taxpayer money being paid to Planned Parenthood. the NCGA felt it was inappropriate to use NC taxpayer money to underwrite the operations of the world’s leading abortion mill. See here.
July 13, 2012
The best things in life are always blessings from God, and so many of God’s best blessings are the simple things in life, the ones we easily overlook and take for granted — blessings like life, love, fellowship, laughter, good food, and interesting conversation. Some people seem particularly adept at recognizing and enjoying and celebrating such blessings. One such person is the Triangle’s celebrity chef Elise Johnson, whose persona and culinary expertise (and recipes) are known to many throughout this area through her TV cooking segments “Cooking With Elise”, her blogging at www.CookingWithElise.com and through her service as Chef Spokesperson for BJ’s Wholesale Club. Chef Elise recently published the following article and graciously consented to my re-posting it here. Bon appetit!
The Importance of Your Family Table
by Elise Johnson
I have been so happy and honored to welcome so many of you into my home for adult and children’s cooking classes over the years. I have been honored that you have entrusted your children in my care. I hope I have encouraged your family in some way and made a difference in your lives. I have been blessed to meet so many wonderful families over the years.
Many people do not realize (because I have made up for it over the years.smile) that I did not speak with ease until I was about seventeen years old. A terrible speech impediment (stuttering) caused me great anxiety and made even saying my own name nearly impossible. It was in my grandmother’s kitchen that I found a safe haven. This is one reason why I am so passionate about cooking with family and friends. As many of you know, my mission has always been to inspire families to connect in their kitchens and around their tables. In my own experience, cooking and eating together strengthens and nurtures relationships quicker and stronger than any other way.
Please consider the following:
Family Meals 5 or more times per week spells S-U-C-C-E-S-S. 80% of families value family mealtime, but only 1 in 3 achieve success
S = Safe, secure place to belong
U= Unlikely to smoke, drink, do drugs, and engage in premarital sex. Psychologists compare the family meal to a vaccination protecting kids from harm. Children who eat with their families 5 or more days a week also avoid fights, and are less likely to be depressed and contemplate suicide.
C= Courteous and Conversational. The family table is a natural training ground. Children learn social skills and manners. Children learn how to have pleasant conversations and how to talk things through. Children learn a better vocabulary. Learn to behave properly, learn how to not interrupt, take turns, learn how to share, and how be polite. Children learn how to listen. Children learn how to entertain guests which is a great lesson for life. Children who are nurtured learn how to care for others.
C= Connected and Committed. Stronger family ties. Place to belong – a place of refuge. Greater sense of identity. Children learn how to commit and keep a schedule.
E- Eat Better. Children who eat as family 4 to 5 days per week do better in school; get better grades. Test higher than children who eat only 1 to 2 times a week. Eat better. Eat more fresh fruits , vegetables, grains, protein, iron and fiber; less intake of soft drinks and sugar. Are less likely to suffer from eating disorders; have better weight control
S= Self Esteem. Mealtime conversation brings the family together, promotes positive self-esteem in children and starts a lasting and positive relationship with food and family. Families learn how to share the responsibilities of preparing and cleaning up meals before, during and after the meal.
S= Success in School. Children who eat 4 to 5 times a week together as a family do much better in school. They receive better grades, achieve higher achievement test scores ; have improved vocabulary and reading skills.
We recently welcomed my literary agent, David, from Oregon to our home. He told our family of his time at a homeschooling convention. The speaker from Focus on the Family asked the hundreds of families present to raise their hands if they cook and eat together at their family table more than three times a week. David was shocked to see only a few hands raise. It is stories like these that made me write my new cookbook, YOU NEVER COOK ALONE. You Never Cook Alone is much more than a cookbook however. This is one review on Amazon:
“”You Never Cook Alone” is not your average, “cookie-cutter” cookbook. Elise Johnson has written a cookbook that is true to its subtitle, “Stirring Memories, Feeding Souls and Building Legacies”. The pages are not only filled with delicious, mouth-watering recipes, cooking tips, and activity suggestions, but they are also overflowing with stories that will warm your heart with joy and laughter, and may even bring a tear to your eye.” You can read the book description and editorial review here.
My family has had the blessing of traveling the country this summer on a book tour. On my tour I have been interviewed by television stations, newspapers and national radio. I always speak about the importance of the family table, how families connect in the kitchen and if spending time in the kitchen and around the table with my family helped me speak, imagine what it can do for other families!
On Sunday, July 15th at 3:00 pm, I will be signing books at Quail Ridge Books & Music. Enjoy a Sunday afternoon book signing and taste samples of the recipes in my book, meet our family and be encouraged! I’d love the opportunity to share my story with you! You Never Cook Alone is also written from a Christian perspective! I have been thrilled to share my faith on national platforms. If you are unable to join our family, you can purchase my book on Amazon. It is also available at some Barnes and Nobles and of course at Quail Ridge Books. Even more important than purchasing my book, please pray for our family and all the people who pick up my book. It is my deepest desire to glorify God in all I do!
Enjoy your summer! May you make many memories in the kitchen and around the table together!
May 28, 2012
We remember those that served and gave their lives for our country, or served with the promise to do so if called. We remember because we know the utter miracle and incredible value of each life. Each life, each one of us, is a remarkable temple — a miracle — testifying to the power and beauty of the living God. There is no greater sacrifice for one to give to another or to a country.