Category Archives: Faith

Grandma Mary

Grandma Mary (or Gigi as her great grandchildren called her) was a second mother to me. Growing up she lived right around the corner from me, and if I wasn’t at home I was at Grandma’s. I was always walking around the corner to her house to get some good food and spoiling like only a Grandma can give.

When I think of Grandma Mary, I think about selfless love. She loved EVERYONE and was always happy to help anyone out. She didn’t have a mean bone in her entire 4 foot 8 inch body. I can honestly say that I do not have one memory of my grandmother raising her voice…ever! Even when all seven of us grandchildren had to have been driving her crazy!

She was always happy to serve others, especially her family, in a selfless act of love. It made her genuinely happy to cook and bake for others, and that was her true gift. She was always up late at night, waiting for her pie to cook, or her bread to finish baking, sitting in her favorite rocking recliner, saying her rosary, which she faithfully said three times per day. She was never one to go to sleep early as there was always something for her to do! She was a self-professed night owl, and the grandkids loved that about Grandma. We never had to go to bed early when we slept at grandma’s house, and we always knew Grandma would order us pizza and let us eat candy into the night.



Sundays were the most special day for Grandma, as she carried on her Italian mother’s tradition of Sunday spaghetti dinner. I remember these family gathering times vividly as a child, as they are some of the fondest memories of Grandma’s. Walking into her house to find my cousins, the smell of spaghetti sauce and fresh baked apple pie, wondering who was already at the house and who was yet to come, the sounds of kids playing, adults laughing and talking, and inevitably the piano being played. Kool-aid and lemonade were the drinks of choice and dinner was spaghetti, meatballs, pork and salad. Sometimes, when we were really lucky, homemade raviolis or gnocchi (gnoches as Grandma called them) took the place of the spaghetti. We would hardly finish our dinner when Grandma would be telling us to eat more, or trying to get us to eat multiple desserts. Everyone was always too skinny for Grandma and no one ever ate enough to satisfy her.


Grandma liked traditions and she carried on other traditions from her mother as well. Who could forget the Easter dolls? Even the older grandchildren would beg for them, and then as adults we would gobble up the ones Gram would give to our own kids that were too young to enjoy them. Or how about her famous crustells, or “crystals” as the grandkids called them, an Italian potato dumpling fried and rolled in sugar. I remember her making those many late nights, on a random request, for anyone. Or pizzelles, an Italian waffle cookie that Grandma called “chumbells”. She would make those chumbells on an old cast iron set that was her mothers.  She could barely lift it to turn it over on the stove! And of course, the other request from her grandchildren – homemade french fries. I blame Grandma for my deep affinity for homemade french fries! Again, it didn’t matter what time it was, midnight or later, all you had to do was ask.

That was pretty much true for anything with Grandma…all you had to do was ask and she would always give whatever she had to anyone. She may have been short in stature, but she towered over with Love. Her example of unconditional love is one we can all follow.

I believe that anyone who knew Grandma Mary would only have lovely things to say about her. She was truly an amazing woman. She always wore a dress, she never drank, never smoked, never swore, she never even raised her voice. She was a peacemaker. She had one photo of herself in her gym shorts and said that was on a dare from her younger sister, and this was probably the most racy thing from her past.  She was the sweetest, kindest person, who was loving towards everyone! She served others selflessly. She loved with action!

I can think of so many ways that she touched the hearts of those around her, and I cherish these memories. She will always remain close in my heart. Forever. I always think of Grandma’s Love when I read 1 Corinthians 13, because this is the type of love that she exemplified…

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Grandma Mary didn’t have much money, she never worked outside her home, she never even left the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, but what she DID have was faith, hope, and an overabundance of Love that she gave freely to anyone and everyone.

We can all learn a little from Grandma on how to love the way God asks us to. This was Grandma’s greatest gift of all, one that keeps on giving, LOVE…

YOU ARE YOU!!! (by my 10 year old)

You are you and so what if you are not “normal”.  What is normal anyway? If everyone was normal everyone would be the same.So it’s ok if you are not normal. You are you and God made you unique. He gave you good things and bad things. It does not matter if you are short or tall, smart or dumb, strong or weak. God made you special. Don’t try to change that. And everyone, yes EVERYONE, has a purpose. If something bad happens to you, later you might find out that it helped you. So yes, everything good and bad has a purpose in God’s plan for you.

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Photo Credit: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/462463455455179789/

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Your ways are not my ways…

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Of course, Dear Lord, Your ways are not my ways. Your thoughts are not my thoughts. Some things are left a mystery until the end. 

Sometimes I cannot see, or even begin to understand, the why of a certain situation. I could drive myself crazy trying to figure it all out.

Luckily, I don’t have to. Because I have YOU to trust in. You to hold me. You to comfort me. You to guide me.

If I would only always remember to turn to You first. So quickly I forget. Every decision first to You. How fast I am to grumble, complain and cry out!

Forgive me Lord, when I close my fists instead of opening them in thanksgiving for all you have done for me. All for good. No matter if I see it that way or not right now.

Always You are faithful. Always You work for the good of those who love You, who have been called according to Your purpose. Thank you, Father.

And when I forget, forgive me. When I forget the power of the Holy Spirit, Mighty Counselor, lives in me.

In ME?!

How can I forget? How can I not listen? He is right here, always guiding, probing, directing.

It is ME who does not listen. It is me who denies. Me who questions. Me who ignores. Forgive me.

Help me to always trust.

Always depend on.

Always follow.

Always ask.

Always listen.

Always do.

Thank you, Father, for everything. The good and the bad that are molding me into who You want me to be. Help me to turn to You at the mountaintops and in the valleys. You are always there working it all for my good.

Trust in Him

Today, I am holding tightly to Your promises, Lord. I am clinging to Your truths. Not what the world tells me. Not what my friends tell me. Not what I tell myself. But Your truths, Lord.

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When I have had a rough day. When my kids are throwing tantrums. When I have to drag seven children to the grocery store. When my teen is ignoring me. When my husband is working long hours and I am so, so exhausted, it is easy to forget how much I am loved by my Father. My father who understands, who cares, who wants to comfort me like no-one else can. My good Father, who encourages me to crawl up in His lap for awhile and find my peace in Him.

I remind myself that I am not exempt from pain just because I am a Christian. Quite the opposite, actually. (John 16:33) Jesus himself warned us that in this world we will have troubles. Not maybe. Not if you’re not following the rules. Not if you’re not a good enough person. No- everyone. You WILL have troubles. It’s pretty clear.

The catch is that we are called to respond in ways other than the world would. We are called to put our faith before our fear. We are called to bear all things. We are called to allow God control in our lives.

When we allow this, we can accept His promises. We can accept His grace, love and mercy. We can allow Him to heal, comfort and restore. He takes the broken things and lets His light shine through the cracks, so brightly, that it’s undeniably Him at work.

So as I’m going through my day and I don’t understand what God’s plan is, I trust. When I feel like my heart is being ripped from my chest, I trust. I hold tightly to His promises. I trust in Him to make all things beautiful in the end. Where it matters. Where He can see and I can’t.

Thy will be done.

 

 

Interview Questions with Tiny Green Elephants (from our first two hostings)

As I prepare to leave tomorrow to Latvia to finalize the immigration process for my kiddos,  I thought it would be fun to take a look back at our experience after the first two (of four) hostings. I know many people wonder what that looks like. Well–wonder no more, here you go!!!

Tiny Green Elephants did a “Look into Orphan Hosting” post highlighting our family’s hosting experience.

  1. What made you want to host an orphan and how did your family feel?

I have always had a soft spot in my heart for those who don’t have a home. Growing up my parents were an excellent example of unconditional love. As a child, we always had someone living with us, usually one of my older brother’s friends who had been kicked out of their house for whatever reason. My mom’s heart had no boundaries and she would take in whoever needed a loving home.

My husband and I would often talk about our desire to adopt. Over the past few years we began opening our own home to others. It began when a dear friend of mine needed respite care for a boy from Burkina Faso they were hosting on a medical mission. After this, we took in my daughter’s friend who had been kicked out of his parent’s and grandparent’s house, and was six months shy of graduating from high school. He stayed until he successfully graduated high school and got a job. From there we took in my 20 year old niece who stayed with us a year and gained her driver’s license for the first time, got her first job and first apartment. Most recently, we opened our home two different times to adult friends who were struggling. We said goodbye to the second friend just days before our host boys arrived. We truly feel that GOD led each and every one of these people into our lives, just as we believe that GOD has led us to this specific group of children.

I remember the day I saw a post about the P143 hosting program, and the more I read, the more I felt led that this was what we were supposed to do.

I sat with my oldest boy, looking though the photo listings of children. We came upon a group of five siblings. The oldest was in the back with his arms stretched around the large group. The listing said that the director called it a milestone that the oldest agreed to talk to the interview team about hosting, and that he was a good boy, in need of healing, who had been in the caretaker position for too long. That was evident to me from this photo. That young boy had the weight of the world on his shoulders trying to keep his siblings together and safe. That struck a chord deep in my heart, and I kept thinking to myself, “here’s this boy, finally brave enough to try hosting, and he’s unlikely to get chosen because he’s in a group of five.” I also noticed a sweet, playful, slightly mischievous looking littlest boy in the picture who reminded me of my own “joyful” child. I prayed, and I was convicted that these children were the ones.

My children were immediately on board, but I knew it was going to be a stretch for my husband. I was honestly surprised that my husband, after thoughtful consideration and prayer, agreed. In a way I thought there was no way he would agree to this. So to me, the fact that he did, was a sign from God that this was the right thing to do.

As for the rest of our extended family and friends, it was a slower process. We fielded a lot of questions about why we would spend so much money on children we didn’t know, wouldn’t it be mean to bring these children into our homes and then send them back to an orphanage, how would we communicate with them since they didn’t speak English, what about the safety of our own children, etc. We always brought these concerns to God and He continued to calm our hearts and our fears, and comforted us that we were on the right path.

  1. What were your feelings and preparations before you Hosted?

Before we hosted I had a lot of excitement and anticipation of their arrival. I couldn’t wait! Yet at the same time, I had moments of “WHAT AM I DOING?!” Those were usually the times when my own three boys were driving me bonkers and I would let fear take over and convince me that I couldn’t possibly handle three more boys. (however, through this process, I have learned that fear is a liar!)

There were a lot of preparations. We had to set up our guest room with three twin beds and come up with clothing for three more boys, of which I wasn’t sure exactly what size they would be. Friends were awesome and the hand-me-downs poured in. The only things we really ended up buying were beds, socks, underwear, and shoes! I also began studying the culture and learning some of the language of the country.

  1. Share with us some of your hosting experiences, what was it like day-to-day. What stands out to you as really special.

I remembered the advice to live your life normally (as possible) during your hosting period. The point was to immerse these children into a loving, home environment, not fill their every waking moment with extravagant vacations and trips to the toy store. Perhaps also because we were adoption minded, we truly tried to allow them to join our family as it is, in all its imperfections, and all its day-to-day delights.

It. Was. Awesome!

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Our day-to-day experiences were pretty normal, just amplified times three boys. What does that mean?

Well, it was louder, and dirtier, and, um, stinkier. But we also had more smiles, more shouts of glee, and more joy. Ohhh and bandaids, we went through a lot of band-aids.

The bedtime routines stand out to me as the most special. The boys clearly loved this special time of gathering together as a family at the end of the night, praying together, bedtime hugs and snuggles, and being tucked in at night. They quickly began to pray with us, and the prayers they would pray touched my heart deeply. Things like, “thank you God for mom and dad who loves ALL boys”.

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I asked one of the boys during the second hosting trip what their favorite part of coming to the US was, and I was pleasantly surprised with his answer. It wasn’t what one might expect from a child (playing with new toys, getting Christmas presents, etc.) It was this–

“Prayers. We don’t pray at orphanage. Here we pray with food and bedtime. I like. And hugs and kisses goodnight. No hugs and kisses goodnight at orphanage. Never. Here-always.”

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Breaks. My. Heart. That’s what these children wanted and needed and appreciated.

God. Love.

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4. What were some of the highlights of hosting? Why? What were some of the hard parts?

Beyond what I described above, another highlight for me was when the oldest, 12 years old, began calling me mom. The younger two started that right away (even though we didn’t introduce ourselves with that) they seemed to follow suit with our own children, but it took the older one a bit to let his guard down.

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The language barrier was difficult, especially at first. We craved to have long, deep conversations with them; that was just impossible to do in the beginning. However, I must point out how truly fast children pick up another language.

Between trips their English skills exploded. By trip two, we didn’t need google translate and we felt that we were able to carry on conversations using simple English. The hardest part of the language barrier remained that we had three siblings who all spoke this other language better than us, so when they would argue it was too much, too fast, for us to be able to understand what was being said.

Then, of course, the very hardest part is saying good-bye to these children that we had fallen in love with, worrying about them while they are away, and trying to parent them from a distance.

5. How has hosting changed your life? Or the life of your hosted child?

Hosting has absolutely changed my life. I quickly found that WE were the ones changing for the better, that WE were being blessed beyond measure from knowing and loving these boys. We became LESS SELFISH. We became MORE PATIENT. We became MORE LOVING. We were more conscious that the words coming out of our mouths reflected light.

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Was it easy? NO. Was it loud? YES. Was it worth it?

ABSOLUTELY!

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For all the work that it takes to raise six boys every day, we also enjoyed some of the most PEACEFUL, JOYOUS, and LOVING moments of our lives!

We have decided to adopt the three boys…and their two sisters who were too young to be hosted, to keep them all together and bring them into a forever home filled with love for them, kisses, prayers and the ability to be kids. The two sisters who we have yet to meet (and have been separated from their brothers since they were moved to foster care shortly before the boys came to the US the first time), we hope to reunite together with their brothers in a forever family of love.

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I can’t wait for that day!

And I honestly believe that even if we weren’t adoption minded, that we would have changed the lives of those three boys for better by showing them the love of Jesus and by immersing them in a loving household during their hosting trips.

No special talents or abilities

That was what it said. Right there in black in white. The words were unmistakable.

No special talents or abilities.

None.

Not one good quality could be brainstormed to write for her on this Referral Letter for adoption.

But I knew differently. I knew that was a lie. I knew that she had love, motivation, and independence unknown to most little seven year old girls, especially ones who had seen and endured all that she had in her short time on earth.

I knew she could clean up and rediaper a soiled baby, for she had told me how often she cared for one.  I knew she was eager to help with any and all household chores and she worked diligently. I knew she was the first person who would run to help clean up a mess that she didn’t even make. I knew that her strong compassion for others meant that if someone was crying, she would be there to hug them. I knew she had a knack for languages and was quickly picking up a new one. I knew she could outrun some of her brothers and had determination and grit in learning new skills such as ice skating, that rivaled the boys.

Those are only a brief listing of the talents and abilities I learned from a mere four weeks with this young child. How could this adoption referral not recognize her talents?  How could this adoption referral not recognize her abilities?  How could it be that in her seven years not one positive thing could be shared about this lovely girl?

The other night I watched the movie “Noah” for the first time.  There is a part towards the end of the movie where Noah is talking to Ila, a girl they had found alive amidst her burning, pillaged village where everyone else laid dead. They took Ila in and raised her as their daughter.

Noah says to Ila, “When we took you in I thought you would be burden. But I was wrong. You are a gift. Never forget that.”

And I burst into tears. Yes.

Yes, my sweetheart, you ARE a gift.

You ARE valuable.

I see your talents and abilities and I celebrate them with you.

Thank you, Lord, for the beautiful gifts you have given me in these sweet children of Yours. AMEN!

 

 

If at first you don’t succeed…

As we start the New Year, I reflect back on where I was a year ago.

Worried.

Confused.

Scared.

Exhausted.

We had just finished our fourth hosting through P143 (Project 143 Orphan Hosting Program) and this hosting period was the first time we met our two little girls.  It was also the first time they were reunited with their three, big, biological brothers. The boys remained in the orphanage when a foster family was finally found for the girls, and they hadn’t seen each other in years. Needless to say, tensions ran high and expectations ran even higher.

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This picture about sums up how I felt. I was trying desperately to hang on, to be happy and to find the joy and blessings. However, in reality I felt pushed to the ground. Overwhelmed by children. Overwhelmed from the newness of having little girls in the house, after having only little boys for so long. Those high-pitched screams and the WHINING! Ohhh I was NOT prepared for the onslaught of whining that commenced with their arrival. And those were just the surface things. Then there was the overwhelming fact that they knew zero English and were accustomed to fighting it out with their foster siblings. We had a lot of hitting and scratching and temper tantrums.

But the hardest part, and this is difficult for me to admit because I feel so much guilt over it, was their desperate desire to be loved by me. To be cuddled by me. To be held by me. To be adored by me. For me to give them my undivided attention. It was quickly overwhelming to be giving that much attention and physical contact to two children while maintaining a household and tending to six other children. And I wasn’t expecting that. I wasn’t expecting to feel “over loved”– is there such a word? I felt over touched. I felt over talked to. I felt over climbed on. My senses were on overload. Everything was louder, took longer, required more effort and organization than previously, and I was just downright EXHAUSTED.

It was hard.

I felt like a failure.

I felt guilty that I was struggling with these things.

Was I a terrible mom because I saw that same child coming for the 100th hug in the last hour, despite the fact that I am arm deep in toilet bowl cleaner. He doesn’t care in the least, but I am deeply annoyed.

As we began to draw near to their departure date I began to look forward to it a little bit. Bedtime would be so much easier. No more high-pitched whines. No more fighting. My husband and I were leaning towards believing that this was not going to work for our family.

We felt defeated.

We were ready to give up.

It is SO much easier to give up then to persevere. It is SO much easier to give up then to endure. It is SO much easier to give up then to bear another’s burdens.

But we aren’t called to live an easy life. We were warned there would be trials. We were asked to pick up our cross and follow Him. We were told that we would only make it by abiding in Him. Apart from Him we can do nothing. With Him, nothing is impossible.

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And what does “perseverance” mean? Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines perseverance as “continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition”.

Did you catch that?

DESPITE difficulties, failure or opposition. As in to persevere you must first be faced with difficulties, failure or opposition.

So if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

Don’t give up.

Abide in Him.

Run the race.

Persevere.

Because you know what? It DOES get easier. He does help me when I turn to Him. He does strengthen me when I pray to Him. Time allows for so many things to work themselves out. The girls are absolutely fluent in English. It took them less than five months time to go from zero English to fluent. Amazing! And those tantrums? Yes, we still have some every now and then, but they are radically different from what they were a year ago. They are now identifiable. They are understandable. They are manageable. They are almost gone completely. Amazing!

And I sit here typing this embarrassed at myself that we almost did give up. That’s the truth right there. We almost let all the fears and worries of the world get the better of us, then trusting what God was telling us all along.

Trust me.

Obey me.

Abide in me.

I will provide all you need.

I don’t know what your mountain is today, my friend. I don’t know what you are staring down this year and wondering how you will ever make it to the next. But know that I understand that feeling. I felt hopeless this time last year, and I really couldn’t see past it without a huge amount of God’s help. So I am here to encourage you to reach out to Him. Stay close to Him. Abide in Him. And He will take you through this year to the next. I am living proof of it.