Here is the message I gave recently at event locally called “Words for Wives.” So thankful to share my heart on seeing God as Heavenly Father.
With my first kiddo I was young, scared and unsure of anything other than I loved this thing growing in my belly with a fervor I couldn’t put into words.
Carrying my second baby was tough. Not one day passed that I didn’t get sick and I spent the last 3 months in and out of the hospital hooked up to IV’s…man was he worth it though.
My third baby grew deep in my heart and not in my womb. That time seemed like an eternity…14 months of wait and struggle, tears and joy. Is there such a thing as a fourth trimester? In adoption I believe there is!
The first two gave me stretch marks as I awaited their arrival; the third gave me memory marks…dates etched not into my skin but into my head and heart. The day we sent him back to Ethiopia, (after hosting him for a month) the day we heard he was sick in the orphange but couldn’t do anything about it 8, 217 miles away , the day it was “official” but I couldn’t quite yet hold him. The day I sat in a small damp and dusty court house in Addis Abba Ethiopia hoping the judge would say yes.
As I reflect on the marks that each of my children have left on my body, my heart and my mind, I see them differently now. I see them as beauty marks etched into my soul by the one who knew my story all along. These beauty marks are scratches, scratches into a sneak peak of what heaven will look like. Where heaven and earth meet for a moment.
I would not trade the lines on my tummy for anything, my bulging belly brought me joy unimaginable. I would not trade the lines around my eyes and mouth for anything, brought to me by many smiles, many years and lots of tears. Tears as they head to college, tears as they head to school in America for the first day, tears as they head to high school and the clock ticks loud in my head…
I stop often to reflect on all the ups and downs and everything in between. I fight daily for the strength to be fully present in the present. I won’t get this day back, this year back, this time back. I may never again have one in fifth grade, this one will never be a sophomore again, I many never again get to have late night talks with one about what med school to apply to…I hold the moments close. I hold the current close as memories flood my mind…med school…what about when you wouldn’t let me brush your hair but only let Daddy do it before preschool. Homecoming dance?…what about when your only stress was where your yellow “feely” blanket was? You want to play what instrument in band? What about when you first came to us and all dogs were “baby doggies” instead of puppies because you didn’t know the English word.
The memories, the marks. The beauty marks that I treasure to the depths of my soul. Scarred by grace and love for which I am beyond grateful.
What marks are left on you and in you that you need to embrace and celebrate? The ones on your skin or the ones on your heart?…
My challenge for myself in 2016 is to continue to lean into the “scars” of life and let the beauty in the markings be my joy.
James 4:14 NLT How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog-it’s here for a little while, then it’s gone.
James 1:2-4 NLT Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.
Chronic pain is well…chronic. Chronic and I are not friends, but we have become neighbors. The last three years have been very rough for me physically. 5 surgeries, fibromyalgia, several autoimmune diseases and other ailments have drastically changed the way I have live. A few of these truths resonate so much for me that I believe they are something we all should do and know, sick or not. These lessons are something that God is pressing on my heart to pursue regardless of my circumstances.
1. Vulnerability is a strength!
“We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known, and when we honor the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness and affection. ~Brene Brown. Letting people “in”, in this season has brought a depth to my relationships that I have never know before. I have friends in my life who are truly “family” and family who I am closer to than ever before as I share with them my needs and weaknesses. My vulnerability, weakness and humility has birthed a richness I might not have ever experienced. My hero in regards to vulnerability is Brene Brown, if you don’t know who she is, go find out! Her favorite talk on vulnerability is a much watch, over and over. You can see it here: https://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability
2. Knowing our true worth allows love in and out of our lives.
Independence? That’s middle class blasphemy. We are all dependent on one another, ever soul of us on earth. ~ George Bernard Shaw I am worth letting others love on me and my family, if I say otherwise I am being hypocritical. I love to serve and be there for others, it is just a natural part of my gifting…why wouldn’t others be wired the same way or allowed to do the same in return to me. There are seasons where I am the giver and I love it, there are seasons where I need to sit back and allow God to love on me through the people in my life. I empower truth and love when I allow other to be my “Jesus with skin on”. I sit behind a desk all week telling others of their worth in Christ and I need to allow that truth to sink into the depths of my soul. This time has allowed me to do that. When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. Romans 5:6-8
3. Constant Communication is vital, with God and others.
During this time of pain and struggle it has been hard to read my bible. There are some days I read and don’t remember much of what I read or it is just too hard to focus. Between the pain or the pain medication study of anything is difficult. God keeps reminding me that He and I communicate in lots of different ways, not just from me reading. He is talking to me in the alpenglow on the mountains, the warm summer breeze that hits my face or the grins on my kids faces. There are many days that I would just pray, just me talking to God, me trying to listen to Him. There are times when the pain is at it’s worse and I all can do is whisper His name. He shows up in all the ways that I connect with Him, he just desires we communicate constantly no matter the form. It has been precious to receive and understand my Creator this way. I also no matter how hard it is need to constantly update my friends and stay connected. Some times it is a long phone call or an email and other days it is a simple text saying, Pray…its a hard day.
4. Attitude = Gratitude
“Intentional Parenting” is a term I began using with friends and family as I discussed my goal of being a good mama. I am sure experts have used it before and I am not the first to write about it. To me it sums up what I want to achieve in my parenting. I don’t want to be a Mom who just makes it or is satisfied with surviving another day. I want to be intentional with my kids in how I love, parent, discipline, instruct, laugh, play and just do life. I want to be intentional in conversation, motive and heart and believe this is the way God designed me to parent. Here are 10 things that I work on to be an “Intentional Parent.” Want to join me in pursuing intentionality in parenting? Come on and let’s journey together.
1. Talk in a soft voice to our kiddos. – I find they listen less when I yell.
2. Stop to tell stories, teach and answer questions in the moment. – Things can wait.
3. Play, laugh and play more. – Things can wait.
4. Pray with your kids. – Not just at bed or meals, as needed.
5. Pray for your kids – No matter how young or old and about the big and little stuff.
6. Teach them about how your family is a Team. – What can they do to help the team daily.
7. Have an amazing marriage. – Love and grow with your spouse constantly, give them an example.
8. Make and allow messes. – Who’s up for making cookies and fingerpainting?
9. Listen more intently. – It might seem trivial to us but to them it’s their world.
10. Have an amazing relationship with God. – Love and grow with your savior constantly, give them an example.
I am just a mom in the midst of it all right along with you striving to do my job as Mom to the fullest to my kiddos ages 8-18. I love sharing an engaging with other women doing the same. This list could have been 100 things but these are some of my current favorites.
Which one do you want to do more of this year? Me, #4. Comment below with yours 🙂
Growing up my favorite movie was “Annie”. The story of the feisty little red haired orphan captured my heart from the very first time I saw her. The story never got old and I would opt to watch that movie time and time again versus seeing something new. I can remember the feeling of satisfaction I had in my heart every time as I walked out of the video store clutching that worn out VHS case to my little chest.
In the movie Annie is a spitfire of little girl stuck in an orphanage with what seems like a hopeless situation. Annie has many hurdles to overcome as an orphan, her age, the tyrannical Miss Hannigan who runs the orphanage and even her red hair. Annie’s situation dramatically changes when she is chosen to spend a short time at the home of wealthy industrialist, Oliver Warbucks. She quickly softens his heart and they begin to build a connection that seems unlikely but beautiful. Annie then has to return to the orphange and Warbucks then realizes through many dramatic events that he loves this little girl and he is going to be her family. To summarize, he realizes he can’t live withouther and he adopts her, becomes her father and this fulfills all Annie’s dreams of being a part of a family.
Recently I realized the huge parallel’s between my love of this movie as a child and the way the story unveiled itself in my adult life and the unfolding of my ever growing family. I can see how God laid in me the desire and love for adoption at such a young age. My story began way sooner than the actual summer of 2011 when we hosted little Wendem.
We are no “daddy Warbucks” finanacially but we too went through a very similar process in expanding our hearts and family. Wendem was with us for a short time when we hosted him for a month in the summer of 2011. It didn’t take us long to realize after having him in our home that he was supposed to be a permanent part of our family. (We kind of knew even before that;) So just like in the movie that short visit changed our lives and the trajectory of our family forever.
Today is the 6 month anniversary of Wendem coming home for good. I can’t even fathom life without him. He was always in our plans even when we didn’t know it…God did though. In some moments it all feels brand new and other times it feels as though we were always a family of 5. I am so thankful for the last six months and the many days we have had to grow, learn, bond and love as a family.
In the wise words of Miss Annie “The sun’ll come out Tomorrow, so you gotta hang on till tomorrow. Come what may. Tomorrow, Tomorrow, I love ya, Tomorrow. You’re only a day away.” I am so thankful that all of Wendem’s tomorrows get to happen right here with us… his family.
One of my favorite memories growing up is strawberry picking with my mom and brother. The three of us would spend countless hours harvesting those succulent little red candies of nature. Okay, maybe they spent countless hours actually harvesting while I spent hours frolicking around the strawberry patch and antagonizing my big brother.
I would steal strawberries out of my brothers bucket as to say, “pay attention to me.” I mean if I annoyed him enough he would have to engage with me right? I would take strawberries and make a sticky red paint in my dirty little hands and then proceed to “draw” on my brothers bare back. There wasn’t much of a canvas as my brother was a little dude, even being seven years older than me I never remember thinking he was big or scary. My brother maybe weighed 98 pounds with a backpack of wet beach towels on his back…his was little. So I would “draw” and “write” on his petite little canvas in strawberry ink until he was so annoyed he had to call Mom. He normally waited for quite awhile before calling in the backup though, he obliged me for longer than he should have. I always remember that about my brother, he was pretty patient with me as the pesky little sister.
Mom would gently distract me away and then I was off on another adventure among the red and green fields. Oh summer, it contained so many possibilities of fun. There is nothing like the feel of the sun beating down on my freckled little face as strawberry juice drips out of the corners of my mouth and landed on my Rainbow Bright T-shirt. I remember those days and how I didn’t have a care in the world and how each new day seemed like it could be the best day of summer break yet.
We always ended up with quite a harvest at the end of the day, not any thanks to me though as my method was a little like this; “one for my bucket, two for me, one for my bucket, three for me.” I took great pride in our “team effort” and bounty though. I loved sitting in the back of the car surrounded by the buckets of berries and the smell of summer. My little hazel eyes would twinkle all the way home as I knew what mama would do with these berries. Jams and jellies and strawberry waffles with whipped cream piled high, yahoo! Did you know you can and should get whip cream refills if you have a bite of waffle that doesn’t have any? Yep, my mama told me…and showed me. Every bite should contain a dollop of whip cream, a bite of of waffle and a few fresh strawberry slices.
I think back to my strawberry picking days and an endless grin comes upon my face. Picking days were days spent with two of my favorite people in the world. Picking days had a purpose, we were working on a common goal of getting as many strawberries as we could. Picking days served another purpose as well, the purpose of togetherness and what I think most important…time. We were cultivating more than strawberries those days, we were cultivating family and memories.
I look at my three children ranging in age from 8 to 18 and strive to set them up with their own “picking” day memories. I want to nurture times of carefree fun and togetherness amongst the crazy busyness of our lives. I want to make time and space for play, teamwork and family time. I want to foster a cultural in my home where we allow for fun and grace filled sibling interactions even if we are working on a common goal, like cleaning the house.
I know it is easy in our list driven, check off this, do that, kind of society to overlook the power of play and fun. It is easier to be more task driven than carefree. I want to strive for a balance in my home where maybe one doesn’t out weigh the other time wise, but heart wise. I want my kids’ memories of our home and family to be more of “strawberry picking” and less of homework or chore nights. When they are contemplating memories as they get older I hope our “picking days” are what permeate in their memories.
Now I am sure we had plenty of chore days and evenings full of homework at my house growing up but those are not the memories that I recall most often. I day dream about fields of red, fishing in Eastern Oregon and backyard croquet games. I first don’t think of vacuuming the stairs or unloading the dishwasher…although I had to do those things. I remember the memories and most importantly how they made me feel. I felt a part of something, felt loved and felt joyful.
I am challenging myself to find and make more of these moments with my children. I am challenging myself to evaluate from time to time how well Daniel and I set the stage in our family for this. Will you join me in my personal parenting challenge for creating more “picking days?”
I am labeling it intentional parenting. The big and little things that we do to love on our kids and teach them in the midst of our crazy lives.
Sometimes for my adopted son I call it therapeutic parenting as it takes on different level of healing and encouragement.
My kids are far from perfect and I am far from a perfect mother….but my job as “Mom” is one of my favorites. I do serve a perfect God though and I love how He guides me through it all.
I believe our job is to encourage and teach our kids daily, in the little stuff. I believe passionately that we are supposed to share truth with them, God’s truth and that is it simply put. Will my kids in turn always pick up that truth and act on it? Of course not, just ask my 18 year old 😉 But I am still called to share it with them and then I get to step back and let God and them handle the rest as they grow up and start to make the choices for themselves.
It looks different every day.
It does NOT look like long, boring, family devotionals.
Sometimes it is a conversation of instruction and other times I just listen.
It might be a note or text.
It might be a movie choice.
It might be a tone I have, regardless of theirs.
It might be a conversation after church.
It might be a lot of open ended questions.
It IS lots of prayer for them, about all of it!
Today it is Valentines Day.
Here is how I am being intentional with my three children.
I am talking with them about love and God’s love and how many others are going without it today and if we love Jesus how he asks US to do something about it. (You can read my post from yesterday on that.)
As we approach Valentine’s Day tomorrow I reflect on those without the love of a family.
Those who will have no such thing as a Valentines Day. My heart is heavy for them and we are continually praying about how and what God wants us to do about this. What is our role right now? What is our role in the near future? What is Gods mission and vision for us as a family to care and advocate for the “least of these.”
I will celebrate tomorrow and cherish the love I have for my hubby and 3 kiddos.
I will use the day to talk of love, the love God has for us and the love we have for each other.
I will be ever thankful tomorrow and every day, but I also will remember, pray and act on behalf of those who do not have what we do.
Will you join us in asking “Where is the Love” and what I am supposed to do about it?
Tomorrow will be chalked full of warm fuzzies but today I challenge us to look at the cold hard facts.
It is estimated there are between 143 million and 210 million orphans worldwide (recent UNICEF report.)
Every day 5,760 more children become orphans
Approximately 250,000 children are adopted annually, but…
Each year 14, 505, 000 children grow up as orphans and age out of the system by age sixteen
Each day 38,493 orphans age out
Every 2.2 seconds another orphan ages out with no family to belong to and no place to call home
Studies have shown that 10% – 15% of these children commit suicide before they reach age eighteen
These studies also show that 60% of the girls become prostitutes and 70% of the boys become hardened criminals
Another study reported that of the 15,000 orphans aging out of state-run institutions every year, 10% committed suicide, 5,000 were unemployed, 6,000 were homeless and 3,000 were in prison within three years…
The UNICEF orphan numbers DON’T include abandonment (millions of children) as well as sold and/or trafficked children. The current population of the United States is just a little over 300 million… to give you an idea of the enormity of the numbers…
According to data released in 2003 as many as eight million boys and girls around the world live in institutional care. Some studies have found that violence in residential institutions is six times higher than violence in foster care, and that children in group care are almost four times more likely to experience sexual abuse than children in family based care.
An estimated 1.2 million children are trafficked every year; (THE STATE OF THE WORLD’S CHILDREN 2005)
2 million children, the majority of them girls, are sexually exploited in the multibillion-dollar commercial sex industry. (THE STATE OF THE WORLD’S CHILDREN 2005)
Oh 2012 how great,beautiful, amazing and hard were you?!!!! Reflecting on this last year we have so much to be grateful for. So many things to bring smiles to our faces.
We are finally getting into a great groove of being a family of 5! Wendem has been making HUGE strides in so many areas! Growing in trust of us which completely transforms our house, growing in confidence which totally helps him in school and socially and of course his English is improving amazingly which helps everything. Communication makes things so much easier! He is really picking it up, people are amazed to know he has only been home 4 months. I feel like he is finally coming into himself. The Wendem we are getting to experience now is giggly, enthusiastic, grateful and just plain silly….yep he is a Herzog alright! He recently conquered one of his biggest fears….the school bus. When he first arrived he was down right adamant that he would never ride one of those, even if brother did he was just too darn scared. Well one day a few weeks before Christmas break he came home from school and declared he was ready. I about fell over but I jumped on his energy and called the bus folks. They don’t allow parents to ride the bus for lots of reasons but I did convince them to let Chase ride with him for the first day. Sure enough Chase rode with him, showed him the bus transfer protocol and he was off. (He rides a bus, gets to the hs here and switches buses both ways.) Now he is an old pro and riding the bus to school and has even rode it home. Yahoo!!!
Just as many new mothers fill a baby book with babys first words and funny toddler sayings I too am doing the same. Here are some fun things our little man has said:
*When talking about his homework and the top of his page he said, ” I wrote on the upstairs of my paper and teacher helped me on the downstairs” (bottom) 🙂
*He wanted to play with a friend from school the other day but I told him I didn’t have his friends phone number or address. He said “Mom just ask the lady in your phone to give you directions like before when went to Yibis house, she tell you how to get to Ryans.” I just cracked up! I tried to explain to him that we had to have a address before the nice lady could give us directions, thanks MapQuest!
*We were at the mall as a family visiting Tay at work and he saw the photo of Santa and wondered why in the world Santa would come here. I asked him if Santa ever came to Ethiopia, “nope, his legs would get too tired to walk there.” LOL!
*I was folding laundry the other day in the dining room where he came and promptly turned the light off in the room. I said I need that light on, he then asked me, “Do you have money for that light mom?” I think he is listening when we tell the kids to turn the lights off in a room eh!
The list of these are forever long but these are a few of my current favorites. I love the way he says “little and really” in his cute Amharic accent.
Wendem many days is a mini-Chase, he just LOVES big brother and those two have so much fun together. We are constantly impressed with Chase’s love and energy for Wendem, we often find them wrestling or watching movies like old pals 🙂
Wendem loves music as does the rest of our family, he loves to dance and sing even if he doesn’t know the words 😉 Some of his favorites range from Chris Tomlin to Flo Rida. Like I mentioned before, a true Herzog;)
Here are some other fun things to reflect on that we are grateful for this past year!
God brought our son home after a long 13 months of waiting and fundraising!! We pushed through some hard adjustment times but we hung in there and now things are better than ever. Not to say we won’t ever have rough times again but we have finally got into a smooth groove as a family of 5.
Taylor Dawn graduated high school and started college which she is loving. We can’t believe she is 18 now!!!! She is smart, beautiful, funny and fun to watch grow into the woman God created her to be. All I can say is watch out world! She has been working at the mall for a year or so now working at Orange Julius and Chattys. She loves the barista part of working so just recently took a job at up and coming CoffeeHouse here in downtown Bozeman that she will start in a few weeks. She will graduate from the Esthics school in April and plans to work in her field along with the coffee house and then is looking into going to MSU this fall.
Chase is loving 7th grade and realizing his true passions and talents. I can’t believe he just turned 13, really two teenagers in this house! This year he laid down his 9 year soccer career for focusing on music. He loves playing guitar, singing and making music on the computer. He and his best friend Karen tried out for the talent show this year. With over 60 plus acts and only 20 chosen they got in and will be performing at the Emerson in the show later in the month. I can’t wait!
Our house is full of love, laughter and big extremes. You might catch us chatting about college financial aid or what would be a good snack for a second grader….the joys of having kids 10 years apart! As most of you know if I had my way I would graduate one and bring a new one in 😉 Now my hubby on the other hand doesn’t agree, although we do not think that we are completely finished though…we know we may do this addition thing once or twice more…but God’s timing is perfect and we will know when that is. (I am petitioning for a girl to even things out!!!;)
2012 brought a lot of work, pain, joy and peace as does each year. This year though we are especially thankful for God’s provision in our lives. His hand was all over our adoption of little Wendem and you never had to doubt if it was His plan, it was and He provided for us ever step of the way.
We are so grateful for all of you who journeyed with us and continue to do so! Praying 2013 is an amazing year for us all. God Bless!
Lots of Love, The Herzog 5
We did it! We made it! Wendem is home for good!
Our little man has been home for 7 weeks and it feels like 7 days and 7 years all at the same time. You who have adopted or remember what bringing your baby home from the hospital is like in those first few months know exactly what I am talking about 🙂 It all happens so fast but then you can barely remember life without them!
Driving home on September 9th from the airport was so emotional for me. It was exactly 13 months earlier that I had put this dear sweet boy on a plane back to Africa…and now I was driving him home…home to our house…FOREVER! It almost felt like it was the first time I had taken a deep breath in 13 months. I could now officially breathe…this part of our journey was over. Every single day of those 13 months I was acutely aware of what we needed to do or had to be done and that something was missing. There was always something to do, something to work for, something to strive for, something to pray for, money to raise, something to anticipate. Now I could finally breathe, I honestly felt like I left a huge weight sitting in the airport parking lot. I exchanged it for this cute bubbly brown eyed boy whom I couldn’t and still can’t stop hugging.
In the time since Wendem arrived home so much has had to happen. We went through the re-aging process to determine his true age. With the help of our amazing pediatrician and bone scans we discovered that Wendem was turning 8, not 10 like his birth certificate states. In the coming months we will have to officially start paperwork to make that correction. We also let Wondimagagne pick a “American” name….after weeks of deliberation he chose Wendem, it incorporates his birth name but it much easier to spell and pronounce 😉 He not only has an new name but a new nickname as well that his silly Dad gave him…if any of know my husband at all you know what I mean. Daniel calls Wendem “Dubs”, as in W. Wendem had to receive several rounds of immunizations to be able to start public school. We had to start from scratch so he had to receive every shot from infant until now…that was tough! We enrolled Wendem in school and start working with the ESL teacher in our district. He is a big 2nd grader at Irving school here in Bozeman. Grandma helped us get him a bicycle for his birthday and he is learning to ride a bike for the first time..(training wheels on)
Some days have been easy and full of smiles, others are filled with frustration and tears. Trying to navigate all the newness and not speaking the same language is quite the challenge. The days our son is upset or grieving I want so badly to be able to explain to him and console him through my words. Instead I just hold him through the tears or anger he has and keep telling him how much we love him and that he gets to stay here forever. We tell him over and over again that he is our son, that we love him and that he now is part of a family, our family and nothing will ever change that. I will say that as each week goes by we are seeing major progress. It is amazing how his English is coming along and how much better we all are communicating.
The last 7 weeks have been beautiful, messy, amazing and hard…but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Life in our house looks very different as does any home where a new family member is added. We are daily learning our new “normal”. He definitly has a sense of humor and loves to play which fits perfectly into our lives. His little smile and smirk can light up the room or make me smile in an instant. Chase and Wendem are often found wrestling or playing football in the yard. Chase is a super big brother, it actually brings me to tears often ! I love watching the boys together! Taylor is so busy with college and work but always finds some time to give to us and we take it and count it precious when we get all three of them together for some good family time!
I look forward to blogging more on our “new normal” and helping other prospective or adopting families see a little window into what all happens after your kiddos arrive home for good. God is teaching us all so much and we look forward to sharing that! Blessings to you and yours!
Hugs, The Herzogs