Sometimes it is very easy to let the little things become big things, and push the big things to the back of the line. This Mother's Day I was reminded of what is truly important.
There has been a lot of inner turmoil and worry for me over a lot of things lately. Kenny's conference and Olesya's obvious struggle with similar learning issues has me fretting mightily over trying to figure out how best to teach them so they can each be all that God intended them to be. Joshie and his ups and downs, Angela's emotional growth, Matthew and his educational future and keeping him challenged...it is all a lot to keep up with, let alone the day to day grind of laundry and keeping food coming in as fast as it is going out! Hahaha!
When I received Kenny's Mother's Day gift this morning though, it helped me put it all into proper perspective.
"This House is Filled with Love." Is there really anything more important than a child feeling loved, that their home is one where "Love Wins", where they are supported and nurtured as they grow? Even if our kids struggle endlessly with academics, they have already "won"...they are loved. That is all that really matters at the end of the day...or the end of their childhood.
It is funny how parenting children from these backgrounds helps you keep it real. Other parents have different goals for their kids...they fret and stew over getting the right teachers and grades so they can get into the right college and get the right career that will earn them a six figure salary.
When you parent kids who have had so many strikes against them, who are starting from so far behind in some cases or who have struggled to learn how to love, or to give in to love, suddenly you realize where the real success is, and it has nothing to do with grades or diplomas, or with being the best jock on the field. The kind of learning going on daily in our home is far more important than anything taught in school, for without love our children are mere shells, they are not and never will be whole. Don't get me wrong, sometimes love is not enough, but love IS the key to happiness...not money, not good grades, not the material wealth that so many strive for day after day.
I am going to frame this and hang it somewhere where I can see it often, and when I feel as if I am failing or not living up to my own expectations, maybe this will help remind me what I am really teaching. I already have an "A+" if our children feel this way about their family. Everything else is gravy.
We had a really nice, low key, relaxing weekend. Friday night we visited the art show for the kids' art class. Kenny and Joshua are very excited to be starting classes there next year, especially after seeing all the art work displayed. The kids were so happy that a few friends came to see their show. Thanks Lael and Jill! Here is a little of the work displayed:
This was one of Angela's pieces. We totally teased her about her "Luba Look", which is a standing joke around our house. One of her friends at the orphanage was named Luba and in a couple of photos she looks quite dark and serious. So whenever we get a photo of Angela where she looks more serious we tease her about it and she cracks up. I had not seen this work she did and was so surprised, I thought it was very, very good and shows a lot of talent.
This is Matthew with one of his on display, you all have seen it on the blog before and it is my favorite he has done all year. When he came out of class with this one it was one of those moments where you look at your child through different eyes as you see a skill or talent emerge that you never would have thought them capable of. They are all in art class not because I think they are loaded with talent, but because I think the arts are undervalued and are important developmentally for kids. It can lead to lifelong passions or simply pure enjoyment. Music has been that way for me and I have always been ever so glad that despite my limited talents my parents encouraged me to continue and never made it about "being good" but about loving what I was doing. Consequently, I have enjoyed music in a variety of ways my entire life. Already Matthew has requested that if we cut anything, we not cut art next year. He can identify the works of the artists they explored this year, and he has learned a lot about the basics of drawing and painting as well.
Here is Olesya's canyon drawing. She LOVES art so much and she and Angela both had artwork selected last year for the Antares calendar project. It was great to have this class to drop them in when we came home so they could do something not language based that they could be successful at.
My actual Mother's Day is always special as it commemorates not just the national holiday but a couple of other special dates that mean even more to me personally. Mother's Day 2000 is the day Matthew was placed in our arms forever in Aktobe, Kazakhstan. I remember being on the plane heading to Almaty with two other couples and we all remembered what day it was in America and grinned at each other over finally quiet sleepy heads. From the first moment he snuggled right in, nestled against my neck, and he continues to do that today. What a very special son we were blessed with as our first child. Who'd have ever have thought we would end up with FIVE kids??? Hahahaha! Still blows me away thinking about that.
The second reason today was special is that 5 years ago on Mother's Day we visited our church for the first time, after not having attended church for years. Unlike some young couples with kids, we really didn't head back through church doors looking for a place for our kids. In fact, if that were the case we wouldn't have probably ended up staying at this church as there are very few families with children who attend, no youth group, etc. No, it wasn't for the kids. Dominick and I both had a strong yearning to practice our faith some place that would be a good fit for both of us. We knew what we didn't want but didn't know if what we did want even existed. I still can't believe that on our very first try, we found the right place for us to grow as Christians and serve in ways that are meaningful for us. Another "never in a million years" would I have ever envisioned myself working towards licensed lay ministry. Maybe part of my problem is that even now I have a hard time believing it or seeing myself in that role, but trusting God's leading means doing it even if you don't understand it...and man, I sure don't understand it but figure it will become obvious eventually, or at least that is what I keep telling myself.
We ended the day with the kids and Dominick all planting annuals for me in our backyard, and then having dinner with dear friends whom it had been way too long since we sat down and just visited with. Life has truly been interrupted in one way or another for many, many months now and maybe we are slowly getting back on track. I hope so, I am in need of feeling more "normal" these days.
I can not end this post without recognizing all the moms out there who still wait...wait to become pregnant, wait to bring home children who desperately need a loving family, wait beside bedsides in cancer wards, wait beside gravesides of children they have lost. Then there are those women who mother many, but never any from their own womb or with a legal document in hand allowing them to claim the title of "mother". May God richly bless you all.
And thank you God, that Kenny is home to be able to write those words. Thank you that ALL our children are finally home.
This house is full of love because the hearts contained therein are filled with love.