Thursday, May 05, 2011

The Right Time

There are things that are hard to explain to others, gut reaction things that somehow you just know are important to pay attention to but that to others seems quite baffling.  I tend to listen to that little voice and trust it, even if it doesn't make sense to outsiders.  When it comes to the kids, I really, REALLY listen.  Often this involves the purchase of things that on our very limited budget may seem unnecessary.  Or perhaps it is making sure our kids get out in the world to see and do things, to experience hat which may also seem unnecessary.  However, until you have parented an 8 year old whose life was so narrow he had never turned on a light switch before, or an 11 or 12 year old who have never really been outside in a town in the dark before, you really can't understand how experience is far more important than "stuff".  You also may never understand that there are just key moments when something will bind together a family that is stitched together with nothing more than love and common experiences that need to be had together to create history to be looked back on and shared.

For example, stupid as this sounds, once the kids had seen Mama Mia and all were wandering around the house humming the music from it and begging to watch it over and over again, I told Dominick that we had to jump on this and go buy the CD to listen to in the car.  Trust me, it was NOT because I love the music (quite the contrary!), but it was because I knew this would create a shared common experience for the kids, and sure enough, it was a great laughter inducing and memory creating thing to do...sing along to songs that were newly discovered by everyone at the same time. 

When your time together is cut in half, you must look for ways to create history and family culture quickly that includes ALL, even the new arrivals, so that you don't have to wait years to laugh over the dinner table over silly things, or even to quietly share a hug and a tear over a sorrowful shared memory.  There will always be memories that don't include children that were not yet part of the family, but it is terribly important to be able to also jump immediately to memories that include every family member.  Everyone needs to feel they belong, that they are part of the special tribe.  One of the single best things we have done and continue to do is to have our family campout nights where the kids sleep in our room on the floor in their sleeping bags one or two nights a week.  How they love this!  Upon our return from Tucson last week, where we all slept in one big suite together several nights in a row, the kids all begged to sleep in our room the first night home as they declared "We will miss all being together like we were in Tucson...please Mommy...just one more night!".  And as Dominick and I lay there in bed, all of us quietly joking about how Olesya's snoring compete's with Daddy's, or as Angela sleeps by the side of my bed and reaches her hand out to be held as she slowly drifts off to sleep, we realize that these times will slip away far too soon, and one day we will wish again for these special nights as we tell Kenny and Matthew to "Shush!  It's late!" and they giggle softly to themselves in the dark. 

When you have children whom you never had the privilege of rocking to sleep as infants, or tucking in as toddlers, you grab hold of all you can...for their sake and for yours.

Creating history is probably the single most important thing an adoptive family can do for children whose history was never recorded or remembered by anyone, and whose history may even be purposely pushed to a dark corner because it is so painful it can't be easily accessed.

Today was another one of those moments when we trusted our gut, despite the folly of spending money at a time when it is slim and on something others would consider an "extra".  But I knew...I just knew...God was tapping on my shoulder saying "Don't miss this is the time...listen to me on this one..." and tonight Dominick and I have not a single regret.  It's not a lot of money by some folks' standards, but today we went to the local Christian bookstore and each of the kids got to select their first real Bible. 

The past couple of weeks have been filled with so, so much.  God was near and dear in hard times, witnessed in ways never seen before, questioned on levels that were deep and wise.  We also just completed our World Religions study which was foundational and provided incredible opportunity for discussion and exploration.  Angela told me two days ago that she was really beginning to feel God differently, and Josh has suddenly developed some very firm beliefs that are wonderfully, completely his.  I also recently discovered a new children's Bible study that I think will work really well for us to use at home to explore the history of the Bible, and I wanted to engage the kids in thinking about the story of God on many levels.  We are perhaps a bit different than some parents in that we want our kids to claim their faith as their own, and are not at all disturbed by their questions or expression of beliefs that may be quite different from our own.  They may one day find God speaks to them in another denomination, or even another religion.  Actually, Dominick and I are somewhat different from one another in our beliefs as well, and present both perspectives equally to the kids and allow them to evaluate for themselves what speaks to their heart.  It is terribly important to us that they have a faith that is authentically theirs, and we don't want to wait until they are of confirmation age to begin that exploration, for we feel that is not only too late, but also causes them to miss out on developing a deeper relationship with God that can be real and present for them right now.  What we don't want is to spoon feed them "religion", and have them loose their faith.  For us, there is a difference...religion is man-made, faith is between the individual and God.  I'd give up religion any day for true, abiding faith in a God that makes sense to me.

We felt that it was important for them to select a Bible that would be a grown up tool, a "real" Bible that was not a child's version but a leather, engraved, honest-to-goodness treasure that would grow worn with use in their hands from childhood to adulthood.  We wanted it to be something reflective of their own personalities, as we felt this would encourage them to connect with the idea of further study.  So off to the store we went.  After carefully looking at various versions, we selected the New Living Translation for all as they read it and realized that each of them could understand this one more easily. 

This was one of those little Holy Moments, standing there as each one perused the selection, looking at covers, debating size and tabbed versus untabbed versions, comparing font size.  It took a full hour before each one had found the perfect Bible for themselves.  Each gasped at the cost and asked me "Are you sure Mommy?" and I reassured them that this was important, and they would use this for years to come so we wanted it to last and be very, very special for them.  Matthew stood there holding two or three, concerned about how it would feel in his hands, wanting the perfect size and most definitely wanting black.  Angela quickly reached for a stunningly beautiful pink and black Bible with scrollwork imprinted on the leather cover and exclaiming that the silver edged pages were so beautiful.  Joshie took the longest, wanting a smaller Bible...but not too small.  Kenny was quite serious about his selection, telling me "You know Momma, this might even go off to Bible college with me someday if I decide to go!" and Olesya picked a very Olesya-styled black one with pink trim and stitching.  They couldn't believe that they could get their names on them too, and Kenny opted for "God Rules!" instead of his name while Josh quietly requested that his not have his name but instead state boldly "Have Faith".  I loved both ideas.  The woman helping us at the counter understood this to be a special moment, and asked the kids to come over and place their hands on their new Bibles and she prayed with them asking that God's word be embedded on their hearts and guide them in their lives forever.  I think that we all recognized this to be a bit of a rite of passage into a more adult oriented pursuit of God. 

Back in the car, each sat there caressing their new Bibles, and Angela held it to her chest saying "Mama...I LOVE my new Bible, I never cared before but this one is very special and beautiful! And I can even read it because it's not too hard!".

Matthew and I found ourselves laughing until the tears poured from our eyes later on the drive home.  I was explaining that some of them had Bibles with the words of Christ printed in red, but not everyone had selected a version like that so they all looked to see if theirs had it or not.  All of a sudden Josh pipes up from the back seat in this unexpected southern style drawl that literally killed Matt and I when he said with such a serious look on his face "Hey Bible ain't got no Jesus in it!!!!" when he couldn't find any words in red.  Oh my gosh, I was dying it was so funny, and funnier yet was that Matthew too could barely contain himself and was the only other one in the car to find that so darned funny.  He looked at me and said "Mommy, where did he come up with that one?" and so he and I went back and forth for the rest of the drive, cracking up saying to each other in as southern a voice as we could summon "Hey Bible ain't got no Jesus in it!!!" and dissolving into gut busting laughter.  It was a total hoot, and does not translate well into writing here, you had to hear and see it but MAN it was funny!

Below are pictures of the World Religions project the kids completed recently.  This was a very challenging unit and the work is 100% theirs.  They researched it all, put it all together, typed it all (yes, even Joshie), misspelled it all :-) and learned so much.  I used the subject matter as a tool to begin to teach research and computer skills, and to create a foundation for world history studies.  The kids said this was their absolute favorite thing we did all year, they had so much fun and it felt like a "grown up" project for them!  They learned how to use Word Art to create the titles, save documents and photos on a memory stick (which is how we keep their things organized, they each have their own thumb drive), they learned how to create a timeline online, and how to search Google images.  This was a weeks long project and we were so thankful to have help from Miss Pat, our trusty volunteer who not only provided extra laptop computers for us to use but guided the kids and spent hours alongside them.  I never could have done something so ambitious with them without her help. 

Matt probably had the hardest religion with Hinduism, but did a wonderful job of narrowing the focus and hitting the highlights.

Kenny loved this project so much, and had a difficult time remaining focused on Islam and not branching off ever deeper as his curiosity was definitely piqued. 

Joshie surprised us all with his approach to his project.  He was probably as organized as Matt and Angela in doing it, and needed very little help at all to pull it all together, instinictively understanding what needed to be done and how to present it.  Not bad for 2nd grade!

Olesya researched Judaism and our guest speaker, another Miss Pat, helped tremendously with this topic!

Buddhism fascinated Angela, and she wants to learn more about it.  She wrote a wonderful short biography about the founder of Buddhism and it was easy to forget when reading it that she has spoken English for only a year.  This girl is a future writer!
 And here are a couple of photos from the girls' baptism this weekend:

It was a precious moment for the girls, and we are being supported in the raising of our children by our wonderful congregation, where so many have taken an active role in their lives. We know there are so many who are contributing to the people they will one day become.  The love we have been surrounded with by our church family is almost beyond comprehension, and we truly don't know how we would be the family we are without them.  Everything from folks teaching them pottery and reading, to driving them to camp when they don't even have a child going themselves, to having slumber parties with them and giggling in the late night hours.  They have taken them to movies, invited them to lunch, hired them to work, and watched and prayed over us all lovingly.  They have provided a shoulder to lean on, an ear to hear the fears, and encouragement over and over again when at times it seems so very hard.

If our children turn out to be the kind of adults we hope they will become, it will truly be a group effort.  I can only hope that we will have many opportunities to return the favor in the ways we can.

Time for bed.  Kenny headed off to sleep after kissing his Bible good night. was the right timing for this.


Joyce said...

Would the kids want to blog some of thier religion studies, I would love to read it.

Anonymous said...

You have cultivated an ear that hears the still, small voice, and a heart that trust that voice. You do not need me to say, "Yes, it was the right time and the right expenditure," but it was and is.

For those of us who hear the sound of culture and commerce and media you are a light leading toward peace and trust. Thank you.

And for sharing the baptism in person or in blog--the baptism of water and the baptism of word, you have renewed our experience and opened your home and church to us.

Again, thank you,

Anonymous said...

Awesome job on the projects, kids!
Wow, you don't have any slackers there.

Teresa F

4texans said...

Loved this post, wonderful update!