Thursday, December 5, 2013

Six Months Home!


I can’t believe it’s been six months since we brought home our three boys from Bulgaria.  Their transition into our family has been amazing…..we can’t even describe it to people.  All I can say is that when you commit your ways, your lifestyle, your entertainment, your focus, your passions, fully on the Lord, and you set out to care for the fatherless, the Lord goes before, behind, beside you in every way.  All of our children are such a blessing to us and to others and we are honored to be their parents!

Today we were recognized by Mundo Hispanico, the main Spanish newspaper in Georgia, at their annual awards banquet.  Our family’s adoption story won for the 2013 Special Interest story of the year.  Through the article they wrote, we’ve been able to share about older child and special needs adoption with the Hispanic community…..basically our favorite thing to talk about!

For those who are following our boys’ story, here’s the latest.  Little Josiah just had a birthday and turned seven—though he looks more like four. I’m not sure if I wrote this before, but he ended up not being a candidate for heart surgery.  When we adopted him we didn’t think he was a candidate, but when we got him home his cardiologist gave us some hope that perhaps he could have total heart repair surgery, which would entail repairing seven major problems.  However, after a more detailed evaluation of the anatomy of his heart, all three of the biggest surgeons with CHOAtlanta said they would not perform the surgery—that it was too risky and wouldn’t likely increase his life span.  They sent his file to Philadelphia and to one other city and surgeons there concurred.  So he is left in God’s hand and we believe the Lord will sustain him with health and life just as he has for his first seven years.  Doctors call him a “mystery.”  They do not understand how his heart has found balance and works so well with all that is structurally wrong with it and they also don't understand why he doesn't have lung damage (praise God!).  We also found out that he is not a candidate for ear canal surgery—the hearing bones are missing (or something like that) so doctors cannot do it.  They can implant a bone anchored hearing aid into his skull though, to help him hear with his right ear…so we are deciding whether or not to have that surgery done. And as for his deformed outer don't even want to know.  We figured it would be considered cosmetic and wouldn't be covered by insurance......7K to 10K maybe, out of pocket.  Well, it ends up being more like a 70K to 90K surgery! Ummmm, not quite ready to schedule that one!   I work with Jojo every day on his speech (he has a recently repaired cleft lip and palate) and he is starting his formal speech therapy classes next week.  He has learned how to make so many new consonant sounds—only he doesn’t apply them to his regular talking.  People think we are geniuses though, when he babbles something and we know exactly what he is saying.  The best at it is five-year-old David.  If you don’t know what Jojo is saying, just ask David…..he’ll either tell you what was said or make something good up!                                                                 

Josiah’s English has advanced enough that he now tells us that when he was in the orphanage he cried because he wanted us to come.  And he tells us that he slept with the stuffed bear we bought him—the one with the picture of all three of us on the bear’s shirt.  He’s very cuddly and affectionate and loves to be babied—which is why he particularly loves his sisters and wants to be wherever they are.  He’s a little bit of a stinker and tries to get away with whatever he can, but he really is a good boy and loves to help and share with his siblings. When he does something wrong, like taking his brother's flashlight out of his drawer because his own no longer works, and you ask him why he did that, his answer is always, "Just because."  Then you say, "Because why?"  And he always answers, "Because I want to."  He's quick to repent though, so that's good:)

Ten-year-old Benjamin, if you can believe it, is starting to READ!  Honestly, I was just about to send him to school.  I would go over letters with him and two minutes later he couldn’t tell me what the letters were….it seemed he could not retain a thing. So I told my husband that I thought we’d have to enroll him so he could get help that I couldn’t give him.  And then, soon after that, everything started coming together.  He started remembering all of his letters and their sounds.  Then we skipped ahead and started him in the first Hooked on Phonics book, taught him how to sound out the words, and he could do it!  He wasn’t just memorizing them.  He actually sounds out the letters and knows what the words are (very easy words like cat and rat, but still...).  Imagine if I would have enrolled him in school and he would have exploded the way he did…..I would have attributed it all to being in school and maybe gone and enrolled all seven of them!  LOL  His writing skills are also improving and he can write his name (couldn’t do that in Bulgaria) and knows how to form some other letters.

The Lord surely had this boy set apart from the time he was in Bulgaria.  His anointing is upon this child and he knows how to touch the heart of God.  Benjamin is a prayer warrior.  Sure, we pray with the children every day and teach them God’s Word.  But it’s like Benji takes everything he hears in prayer and multiplies it in his own prayers.  He prays fervently for anyone he knows has a need.  And he does not give up….he prays for them day after day after day….on his own….people I’ve totally forgotten about.  And we keep seeing our children’s prayers answered.  They are all so excited now to pray for someone because they expect a miracle, and when I tell them, “So and so is all better now,” the kids cheer and are like, “Yes! Another person we prayed for is healed! Everyone we pray for gets better!”  This was truly tested a few weeks ago when their grandfather was in the hospital and had TEN heart attacks throughout the day.  It didn’t look like he was going to make it but he made it through and is home now doing great.  Another victory for the Garcia children, lead by Benjamin!

We’ve had Benjamin’s right eye patched so the left one could get stronger and it worked perfectly.  At his last eye doctor appointment, both eyes had equal vision!  So in January he will have strabismus surgery to align the eyes so he won’t be cross-eyed any more.  If you think he’s handsome now, just wait till you see him a month and a half from now!

Thirteen-year-old Steven is the sweetest, gentlest boy you’ll ever meet.  He is so eager to please and loves to help out around the house. He’s always telling me to sit down and rest and that I work too hard and that he will do my work for me.  He, like Benjamin, really knows how to touch God’s heart in prayer.  He is very serious about the things of God and stays on top of the younger kids if they are looking around or goofing off while someone is praying.  He prays for the children back in his orphanage to find families.  So far I know of one precious 12-year-old girl who has a family coming for her….but there are at least 20 more from his orphanage still waiting for families.  And they all long for someone to adopt them.  I remember when we first visited Steven last December….the orphanage director had us take him out of the orphanage because she said it was too painful for the other children to see a family there for another child and not for them.  And I will never forget how some of the kids looked at us with such a longing in their expressions.  Please, if you are even slightly moved in your heart to consider adopting an orphaned child…..take the next step.  You can write to me HERE if you want someone to talk to about it  

Steven’s reading skills are coming along well and he loves to learn.  He just got a special electronic magnifying device that he places over his written work and it magnifies the words WAY bigger than a regular glass he is so excited because he no longer has to put his face up against the page to see the letters.  Math facts are coming along very slowly, but hey, that's what fingers are for, right?? jk  He’s such a serious guy—he tells us that all he wants to do is go to church and do home schooling, LOL.  When it’s time to take a break and go play outside he will often stay inside to keep doing his work, and I sometimes just have to make him go play.  But that’s not to say that he isn’t social because he is very much so and gets along and plays well with everyone. He is most excited right now about learning how to play Christmas songs on the piano and also taking voice lessons from me.  I've been a vocal instructor for many years, but now I only teach one afternoon per week, and on that day, I do lessons individually with all seven of our kids (the little ones get maybe 10 minutes).  One of his favorite things to do is sing and he practices his excercises and songs every day! At the beginning of the Christmas season I broke out one of my favorite CDs....Carols sung by the Westminster Abbey choir.  Steven was enraptured.  "Ohhh, Mommy....I LOVE this music....Mommy can we go to a church with this music?  This is like the music in Bulgaria church.  Ohhhh, can you make me this CD to keep in my room?"  And now you hear the Westminster Abbey choir from any of the children's rooms on any given day.

We are all praying for a miracle for Steven’s eyes.  He will have cataract surgery in January but doctors are not optimistic that the surgery will improve his vision.  They say that because he’s had the cataract for so long, it’s likely that his brain has stopped all functioning for the blind eye (the right eye is pretty much completely blind and the left has very impaired vision.) But Steven is optimistic that the surgery WILL work and he prays to the Lord every day to fix his eyes so he can see better and do his school work.  And he really wants to be able to drive one day.  We will not relent in our prayers for him for restored vision. He is always so interested in the stories in the Bible that talk about Jesus healing a blind man and he keeps saying, "I need Jesus to do that for me!"

I write so much about our new boys that I don’t often mention the blessing of our other children.  Luke (11), Gracie (10), and Sara (9), are a sibling group whom we adopted from foster care in 2011.  They have three younger siblings that DFACS placed in another home, and that was a heartbreaking separation.  Last month we were able to have a visit with the three little ones and our children were so excited to see them! We plan to get together for birthdays and we have our next meeting coming up soon!  These three of ours were extremely hyper-active in the beginning, and Luke was on ADHD medication when he came, but all three of them are different kids today….they are settled and at peace, and even though they miss their birth mother, they often thank the Lord for giving them a “good family” and a “Christian home.”  I’m 100% convinced that the transition with our three Bulgarian boys went so smoothly because of Luke, Gracie, and Sara.  They have the most kind, generous hearts, and have helped their new brothers in every way.  They didn’t realize it would be so difficult at first, and they were a bit disillusioned at the whole adoption-of-special-needs-children thing, but they were troopers through it all and really helped me and Norman to get the boys settled in.  Now it’s like they’ve all been together forever!  I’m so thankful for these three.  People ask us, “Do all of your kids come to you this sweet or is it something you do??” And honestly, if it’s something we are doing, I can’t tell you what it is.  I think that some of it is our parenting philosophy and that helps to minimize problems, but really, all of our children, and probably children in general, are just filled with the goodness of God (in addition to having a sin nature, of course) and if parents can keep that goodness flowing and not allow their children to get spoiled and rotten with the things of the world, they will continually see what a blessing their children are to them and the world.

Our youngest is five-year-old David.  He is the only one of our children whom we adopted as a baby—from foster care.  He is becoming quite the prayer warrior himself…..after seeing how Benjamin and Steven travail with the Lord in prayer, he has taken on that role for himself.  Granted, some of his very lengthy prayers are for the purpose of putting off going to bed, but nevertheless, he is becoming a mighty force to be reckoned with.  Let’s see…last night’s prayer consisted of many things, including “defeating the fatness”…..that no “spiders, scorpions, or raccoons would come in our house,”….that he would be “fearless like the Macabees and able to defeat elephants,” that Satan would be “crushed into little tiny pieces,” and that all the people who are not Christian would be Christian.  This little guy loves to play, play, play, but he is also starting to read easy books (he calls it “defeating the book” when he reads the whole thing with no help) and he acts like a big brother to Benjamin and Josiah.  Really, he was our first (together) and he continues to have that first-born personality…regardless of the fact that he’s had six older siblings move in on him! (so much for the 'maintain birth order' critics!)

Norman and I also have five grown children—two girls I adopted from foster care back in 1994, and three biological children of Norman’s—a boy and two girls.  My oldest daughter, Shannyn, is married and had a baby in March.  And at 9 months old she is already walking around the house like crazy!  They live in Pennsylvania near the rest of my family, so I don’t get to see them that often but we are all excited to be visiting them over Christmas break..  My other daughter, Elizabeth, lives with one of my best friends, just 15 minutes away, so we get to see a lot of her, which is a blessing for us.  All the kids love “Sissy!” And she spoils them with movies and junk food every time she comes over (the stuff Mom won’t give them!)  Norman’s son and one of his daughters both live nearby, and his daughter is married and has two adorable children. Gracie and Sara love when we get to babysit!  Norman’s oldest daughter also has son (extremely sweet an handsome!) but she lives up in New Jersey, so we’ve really missed her.

The big news for our family right now is that we are looking for a second church.  For years we’ve been part of a small home-group style church, and we love the fellowship we have with them, and they've been so supportive of us throughout our adoptions.  They are a wonderful group of believers, but it's a very small group, with our children and one other being the only elementary students there.  Home schooling can be a little isolating, and we feel our children need more Christian community and something more organized, like mid-week clubs or something like that to be a part of.  I have to admit, though, that I don't like the idea of “church shopping.”  Visiting different churches each week to see which one we like just feels wrong. I want us to be led by the Spirit of God and for him to make it evident to us where we should plant our family.  Do you know what I noticed on almost every church website that I read?  They almost all say something like, “we preach a ‘relevant’ message.”  I can’t honestly say that I know where churches are going with that. Is there something not “relevant” in the Bible that these churches are staying away from?  Anyway, aside from that, I think we’ve narrowed our search down to a couple of places, and we are praying that the Holy Spirit will lead us to the place where we can make the most impact and be the greatest blessing to the people there and to the community.  At first we were looking for a place that would best meet OUR needs….some home schooling families would be nice…..maybe an adoption ministry…….separate youth groups for high school and middle school…..Sunday School classes so it's easier to connect with opportunity to help with children's or adult choir, etc.  But, we probably won't find everything we'd like at one place.  But maybe we can start an adoption ministry or a home school support group, or a children's choir,  etc.  Hopefully by the New Year  we will have decided on our new church family and we will make some new life-long connections.

We are in full Christmas mode around here.  The boys experienced their first Thanksgiving, and we celebrated Hanukkah for the first time.  Did you know that it was during this Festival of Lights, that Jesus told the crowd, “I am the light of the world!”?  So cool!  We had a great time decorating the tree and the house for Christmas.  Yep, there were bunches of same colored balls all over the place, but that was easily fixed by Sissy and myself after the crew went to bed.  Now we get to relax and enjoy the tastes, sights, and sounds of Christmas for the entire month.  Have a blessed holiday season, friends, and my prayer is that everyone reading this would allow God to soften their hearts to the cries of the fatherless.  These little ones are crying out for parents.  We, the body of Christ, are the answer for them…..and the LORD will make the way for us when we may not be able to do it in our own strength!

Anthem For Christmas, by Gloria Gaither and Michael W. Smith

In the space of the beginning was the living Word of Light
When this Word was clearly spoken all that came to be was right

All creation had a language, words to say what must be said
All day long the heavens whispered, signing words in scarlet red

Some have failed to understand it, so God spoke His final Word
On a silent night in Judah's hills a baby's cry was heard

Glory!; sang the angel chorus. Glory!; echoed back the night
Love has come to walk among us. Christ the Lord is born this night

All creation sing His praises. Earth and heaven praise His name
All who live come join the chorus. Find the words His love proclaim
Find the words His love proclaim!!!!!!

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