Music Makes the World Go Round

This past Saturday, all four of our kids had their piano recital. They’ve all been working so hard at practicing and learning their pieces. (Quick shout out to our piano teacher, Mr. John–how grateful we are to have him teach our kids…he’s patient, and fun and does a GREAT job with them!) This year’s recital theme was “Music, Movies & Emotion”. Each of them got to learn a song from one of their favorite movies. We had a little bit from:

Ben played "The Merry Old Land of Oz"

Ben played “The Merry Old Land of Oz”

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Olya played “Vacation” from the Chipmunk movie and “This Land is Your Land”

Jack played the theme from "The Chronicles of Narnia"

Jack played the theme from “The Chronicles of Narnia”

Abby played "The River Flows in You" and "Goodbye" from the movie Hachi.

Abby played “The River Flows in You” and “Goodbye” from the movie Hachi.

Excuse the awkward “you took my picture while I was talking” photos. I had to take them quick before they knew what was happening!

Even though the kids were a “little” bit nervous, they all did so great. We were very proud of them (and they were pretty pleased with themselves too!) :)

It got me thinking about how much more I value teaching and learning now.
You see, when someone who never had much of an opportunity to be taught suddenly finds themselves in a place where learning means it’s okay to make a mistake, they begin to blossom. And with that blossoming, comes a desire to learn more and more and more. It’s like that feeling of the light finally coming on. Once you get it, you just want more and more. From what I read on others’ blogs, this is not an uncommon occurrence. These kids finally feel safe to learn and learn they do!

I definitely don’t want to ever sound like I’m bragging, but I’m so proud of our kids. All of them. They’ve all grown so much this last year. We’ve stretched and had some growing pains, but everyone is blossoming into a beautiful harvest. God is so good. His ways are so much higher and better and greater than our ways. If I were left to my own ways, I’d be safe and secure…..and selfish. But His ways stretch me out of my comfort zone in ways that are scary and seem impossible…until I’m standing on this mountain with Him, looking back at all He’s brought me through. Stunned. Speechless. Amazed.

I lift You high in praise my God, Oh my King!
And I’ll bless Your Name into eternity.
I’ll bless You every day and keep it up from now to eternity.
God is magnificent; He can never be praised enough.
There are no boundaries to His greatness.
Generation after generation stands in awe of Your work;
each one tells stories of Your mighty acts.
Your beauty and splendor have everyone talking;
I compose songs of Your wonders.
Your marvelous doings are headline news;
I could write a book full of the details of Your greatness…….

(read the entire Psalm 145–God is SO worthy of our praises!)

Simple Addition

4 homeschooled kids

plus

1 (who happens to be an) ESL student

plus

1 teenager working one day per week

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2 girls taking dance

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4 kids taking piano lesson

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1 girl playing on a soccer team

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church 

plus

housework 

plus

lots of chickens

plus

starting our spring garden

EQUALS: Not a lot of time for consistent blogging.  

In case you haven’t noticed, blogs have been few and far between. I had high hopes for keeping them regular, but I must admit, it’s not quite as easy as I thought it would be. We’re living life. We’re all still here. I’ll update occasionally. In the meantime, prayers are ALWAYS appreciated and humbly received.

Rest assured that, though I’m not posting much, life is moving along. Our family is just focused on pulling tightly in together. Bonding takes work and that’s what’s happening during these times of silence. 

Ukrainian Weekend

This post is waaaaayyy late in coming, but I’m just now getting around to it. Baby steps, right? :)

Anyway, I think it’s been a couple of months (?!) ago, but we had some friends come and stay the weekend with us. These were friends we met online. Friends who had gone through a similar journey as us–adopting a teen (or in their case, TWO teens) from Ukraine.  We had been Skyping with them quite a bit and Olya had gotten to know their kids. They all wanted to meet (and we wanted to meet Bill & Val in person as well)…..so, we planned a quick weekend and made it happen.

Olya, Ira and Heidi

Olya, Ira and Heidi

The D’s drove down on a Saturday and got here around lunch time. If I was worried about the kids not getting along or being too shy around one another, I was immediately proven wrong. They took to each other and started talking away in their quick Russian. They had so much fun…playing cards, eating, wrestling, braiding hair, playing outside. They even joined us for church on Sunday. It was such a nice weekend.

Olya and Ira

Olya and Ira

Sam and I also enjoyed getting to know Bill and Val. There’s just something about being able to connect with folks are are paddling in the same boat as you. You’re able to talk, share things, encourage one another and  be encouraged that you’re not alone. Also equally awesome? Val is a fellow home-schooler…so nice to be able to bounce ideas off each other!

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I was told, “It’s just play mom…like in the orphanage.” Um, okay? ;)

The funniest thing had to be the wrestling matches. Here’s our lovely daughter taking down the D’s son, Rostik (I probably really spelled that one wrong). With Ben getting in on the action. What you may not see? Abby’s getting ready to clobber whoever comes near her with a pillow.  :)
The kids had fun playing disc golf and getting outside to play hide and seek. Heidi, one of Bill and Val’s bio daughters, is an EPIC hide and seeker. She completely buried herself in the leaves.

On Sunday morning, we had Abby, Olya and Ira help lead our church in the Russian version of the worship song “Enough”. So cool to have these kids, singing to Jesus as they learn more about His love for them.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about our journey lately. It’s definitely not been easy. Our family has been stretched and tugged way beyond our comfort zones (I guess the key word there is “our”). But we’re making it. I can look back over my shoulder and see how far we’ve come.  It’s so good to be able to look back–especially on the hard days–to see that, yes, we’re making progress.  I thank God for every step we take forward together.

I will give thanks to the Lord with all my heart;
I will tell of all Your wonders.
I will be glad and exult in You;
I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High.
–Psalm 9:1-2

Prayers for Ukraine

I haven’t posted much about what’s going on in Ukraine–mainly because I’m not there and wouldn’t even want to begin  to try and form an opinion. But my heart is so sad. Sad for the people, sad for the nation. It’s truly an uncertain time full of fear and anxiety for the people living in and around Kiev. Yesterday, Olya asked about what was happening over there (an aunt had brought it to her attention). I pulled up the news on the internet and sat with her and Abby to “try” to explain what was happening. How do you explain something like this to your kids?? It’s one thing to read about war in a history book. It’s quite another to watch it happening live.

While we were looking at some of the pictures, we were all just in disbelief of how different the city looks. It truly is a war zone. This is the area we spent most of our summer. Walking around, visiting monuments, just being out and about in the city. Try to imagine what you might feel if you were thousands of miles away, looking at pictures on a computer of  your home being destroyed. It’s definitely a shock for O. But, thankfully, she now knows the One to whom she can take her fears and anxious thoughts. So, I encouraged her that she could pray for her people of Ukraine. Just like we are. We ask you–please do the same.

I don’t trust everything I read on the internet, but here’s a blog entry from one of the missionaries we stayed with over the summer. Her writing can definitely be trusted. Please take some time to read her thoughts on the situation and then, please pray for the people of Ukraine.

Lately…

Long overdue update…here’s what’s been happening in our home:

  • Sam’s been working hard to make ends meet for our family and we’re constantly thanking God for His provision. Just when we think there’s not going to be enough, He proves He’s MORE than enough.
  • School has been going full swing…with everything from weird Science experiments sitting out on our kitchen counter:
Hungry?

Hungry?

  • To school work scattered over various places of the house:
A little ESL mixed with Math at the kitchen table

A little ESL mixed with Math at the kitchen table

The "dining room table" where we hardly ever dine...is covered with planning for the next school year. (and Little House on the Prairie)  ;)

The “dining room table” where we hardly ever dine…is covered with planning for the next school year. (and Little House on the Prairie) ;)

  • The kids have all been preparing for their upcoming piano recital.
  • Our garden seeds came in the mail, so we’re getting ready to gear up for spring.

That’s really about it…just day-to-day stuff. O’s been doing excellent on English reading (AND her speaking). All the kids are working hard in school (and can’t wait for summer!).

Sometimes the days seem overwhelming with too many things needing my attention, but I’m asking God to help me turn moments of frustration into moments of thanksgiving. His mercies are new every morning.

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Sam and I have been talking about trying to get an in depth update together for everyone. But until then, please know–everyone who prayed, gave, sent words of encouragement, watched our kids, mowed our lawn, took care of our animals–you were all a huge part in this journey our family took. Because of you, we’re home now. But, most importantly, because of you–heaven is rejoicing over a new young lady who has surrendered her heart to Jesus. Thank you.

Thankful

Sam’s gotten this song stuck in my head lately…

"Your Grace Finds Me" by Matt Redman

by Matt Redman

I was thinking on some of the words tonight…

It’s there on the mountain top
There in the everyday and the mundane
There in the sorrow and the dancing
Your great grace; oh such grace

There in the darkest night of the soul
There in the sweetest songs of victory
Your grace finds me….yes, Your grace finds me

I talk so often on this blog about the journey. How some days are awesome and some days are SO hard. This song is a good reminder that every  day (good OR hard) is filled with the grace of God. There’s not one day that I’ll ever go through without His grace.

The faithful love of the Lord never ends!
His mercies never cease.
Great is His faithfulness;
His mercies begin afresh each morning.
–Lamentations 3:22-23

If you live in this world long enough, you’ll experience some tough stuff. One of my very best friends has walked through way more than I (in my human heart) believe ANYONE should have to walk through. She’s living proof that God’s grace is there EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.
See, we’ve got this grace thing all wrong…we’ve equated grace with everything being rosy and perfect. But God’s grace is here for us EVERY day. Not just in the good days. Not just on the mountain tops. His grace carries us through valleys. His grace bears us along troubled seas. His grace never leaves us. He made us a promise…

…for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.–Deuteronomy 31:6

So, as we continue growing and learning as a new family, I’m trying to learn to be thankful for His grace that covers over all of us. Covers my sins; covers my failings and the (many) times I mess up as a mom/wife/sister/daughter/friend. His grace covers all of that. And He’s here to teach me how to receive that grace.  What a gift!

Continuing on in my efforts to be thankful…today, I’m thankful for:

  • Sweet times with each of my kids
  • Family card games (Uno, Oh Sugar and Scum–especially Scum!) Mary & Keith–not sure if you read this blog or not, but we want to thank you for teaching us Scum. Such a family-building card game. We’re all fighting to the death so one of us can be president while that last one has to be in the scum seat. Good, family fun! ;)
  • Frisbee Golf
  • God’s provision

They are precious in His sight…

Be the Church

Recently, I was asked if I would mind sharing on our blog about a  young lady who will soon age out of her orphanage. When I received the request, my heart hurt because this is the harsh reality of so many young lives all over our world. Living most of their years in an institution (where they’re taught little to nothing about how to live a life outside) these kids suddenly find themselves on their own trying to figure out how to do life. They have none of the basic life skills that you and I take for granted. Obviously, there are many more failures than success stories and TOO many not-so-great people waiting to “help” them.
What are we,  the church, called by God to do?

I believe the first place to start is prayer. That’s not only how we  talk to God, but one of the ways He speaks to us. Maybe He’s trying to tell us something and we’re not slowing down long enough to listen. We may not all be at the point where we can adopt a child or children. But we can all pray for them, right?  That’s where today’s post is coming from. Kathy asked me if she could share about a young girl God has burdened her heart for. I told her I’d be glad to share a link to her blog so you can read the full details.

Here’s my full disclosure…having gone through the process of adoption, I have a heart for both the kids AND the families going for them. This is NOT an easy road (whether you adopt here in the US or internationally). It’s not a quick process. It’s not inexpensive and it’s not comfortable. Quite honestly, it’s the hardest thing my family has ever walked through together. That being said, we are grateful for the journey. God is working in each one of our hearts. We’re growing closer to Him and to each other as we walk this road together. All of us are learning what it means to step out and trust God. So, yes, I highly recommend adoption. But I recommend that you go into it prepared as a family…..because God will need you all to work together and support each other; to love one another like you never have before.

Now that we’ve got the disclosure out of the way, I’ll let Kathy tell you a little bit about a sweet young lady who truly needs a family…..

Fatherless

“Julie” lives in an orphanage in an Eastern European country. Her profile says she was ‘placed in an orphanage a few years ago.’ (‘A few years ago’ means a few years before December of 2010 as her profile has not changed since I read it then. She would have been no more than 12 when it was written, possibly younger).

That means she spent at least the first few years of her life living somewhere other than an orphanage. With her parents? With grandparents or some other family member? Were they happy years? Were they sad years? What traumatic event landed her in the orphanage? I really don’t know. I do know: Transition to the orphanage = loss to the child. Loss of family. (Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and possibly older / younger siblings). Loss of home. At the age she might have been, loss of friends. Loss of familiar surroundings. Loss of any kind of stability……..

CLICK HERE to read more about this sweet girl  (please, if  you have the time, please read her story). And, most importantly, pray for her and all of the other kids just like her. The need is so huge but our God is so much bigger.