Thursday, August 25, 2011

Birth and Rebirth In the Family that God Built

Terribly long post with lots of photos...WARNING....

It's been a rough month, emotionally speaking, with lots of ups and downs, twists and turns.  There has also been an indwelling of the Spirit that continues to steady us, despite the roller coaster ride we seem to never quite disembark.  It is what we cling to, it is what props us up through it all.  How, I wonder, did we EVER function during those long, lonely years we spent so distanced from God?  I know we were never this happy, were often filled with anger and were easily bruised.  There is a resiliency that comes from living the Jesus life, something I never quite understood until the past few years.

And there is love...oh, how much love!!  There is continual renewal and rebirth, and we get to see it every single day even in the little things.  God has had arms stretched tightly around us this past few weeks, arms that take the  form of beloved friends.  We celebrated so much, and despite the uncertainty and minor upheaval, we are continually reminded of the blessing it is to live together, both in this particular and unique family as well as within the community of faith we walk within.

Olesya's birthday was the day after Kenny's surgery, so her celebration was put off until this past weekend, when we could give it the attention it surely deserved.  We joke about the kids growing up so fast, but when you adopt kids who are already halfway to adulthood or more, each birthday is especially precious.  Olesya turned 12 on the 12th of August, and we had a treasure hunt themed party for her.  Her gift from us was a metal detector which she used to find hints and clues hidden in several places in our yard and neighborhood.  Friends, knowing we were a bit drained after our marathon this past couple of weeks, offered help in the ways they could and did everything from creating the final treasure chest to be found, to offering to bring a beautiful bejeweled pink pinata, to coming early to help decorate.  Olesya had a wonderful time, and her face glowed the entire day!  She had been dancing around the past couple of days, filled with great excitement at the party to come.

Although we only had a few extra kids over, I love that all our children consider the adults in their lives true friends and do not limit themselves to children only their own ages as friends.  Young, old and in between are truly treasured and they dearly love each and every adult who has spent time with them and cared about them.  Here are some pictures from the special day:

Our Big Twelve Year Old Girl!!

She loved her gift!

Dominick out on the hunt, trying to recall where he hid the clues.

Great pinata and treasure box!

Angela enjoying time with a friend

Delighted with a movie!  Princess are the current theme :-)

So many people we blessed are we!

Josh enjoying the party

Matt desperately wanted to frost the cake, and then it broke into 3 chunks on him.  Oh well, with all the earthquiakes lately, it is fitting,...and it still tasted great!

Another year down, thankfully, many more to go!

Olesya is so dear, and I am eternally grateful that the past 2 birthdays have been spent at home, embraced by a family who cherishes her.  I can't help but think of all their friends back in Petropavlosk whose birthdays go unnoticed, who don't receive a specially frosted...even if broken...cake, who are overlooked and forgotten by the entire world.

Our children are reborn when they are adopted, they come to life in ways that are startling and amazing.  A child who experiences unconditional love for the first time may struggle to accept that it is real, but when they cross over and allow their hearts to open up, it is a glorious thing to behold.  While there is no comparison to giving birth the traditional way, it is in itself an awe inspiring event to witness...the first time a child hugs you close with no distance between you, the first time a child risks placing a kiss on your cheek, the first time a child looks at you with wide eyed wonder when you see them...truly see them...and they recognize for the first time that they have worth.

We have spent the past year and a half watching Angela and Olesya gradually be reborn.  As we celebrate Olesya's birthday it is a delight to look back on how far we have come as a family, and to know that God has walked every step with us and all we had to do was trust.  That was not always easy, but it has been worth every awkward moment and every heartbreaking revelation.

My own birthday was today, and I too was treated to a celebration of my birth 45 years ago.  Dominick was off with Kenny getting stitches out and having a post-op recheck while I was home alone with the kids.  I woke up to the girls excitedly presenting me with a hand drawn card and a little gift of handmade soap and foot balm that they bought at a craft booth recently.  I also received a heartfelt email from my own Mom who expressed her love for me in words I will always treasure. We all teased Matthew throughout the day because he forgot it was my birthday, but after returning with Angela from volleyball practice I came home to a note on the door that said there was a party inside waiting for me.  I entered and Matthew had created a treasure hunt for me and I had to hunt around the house for clues.  Then I was treated to a delectable afternoon snack of frozen Italian ices on a plate surrounded by frozen Sugar Babies and topped off with a peppermint :-)  I also had a plate of freshly made sugar cookies, and there was chopped banana with frosting on top, as well as being served Diet Coke (Yes, caffeine free) in a champagne flute.  Oh yes, let's not forget the leftover Christmas plates and place mats that were used to create a festive flair at my candle lit table.

Yea...I know it wasn't Tavern on the Green, but the love with which it was served simply can't be bought...or served...anywhere else.

I was wished Happy Birthday in the best possible way, being referred to as "Your Highness" or "My Queen"!!! HAHAHA!!!

Here I am in all my 45 years of glory...Boy, the older I get, the more I have my Dad's eyes, huh Mom?

My chefs for the afternoon, including Joshua who looks like he is trying to play a GQ Romeo on the side :-)

Was there ever a more beautiful table set for a Queen??
45 years ago I was born into one family, who nurtured me, provided for me, and sent me off into the world.  45 years later, I am still being nurtured and provided for by my family, but that family is larger these days and includes almost no one related by blood.  Not all of that family lives under our roof or shares the name LaJoy, but they are family nonetheless.  I was treated to a pot roast dinner and cake made from scratch by our adopted grandpa this evening, which was a prelude to him once again kicking my bootie in Scrabble.  I was delighted and surprised to find bright shiny balloons and a card waiting for me from another dear friend.  I received many, many good wishes on Facebook from friends across the globe, some of whom I have never met face to face but who have been a part of my life for many years now.

These are the kinds of birthdays that mean the most...the ones with presents which are not measurable in currency, but instead are measured by the heart.

Rebirthing often means revisiting pieces of childhood that were missing or never experienced, and doing so in an environment where that is safe to occur.  We are always aware of our kids' need to do this, and try to provide time, materials, and encouragement to do whatever it is that feels necessary.  The lack of judgment here creates a safety zone that is desperately needed, and all can grow at whatever pace they need to, and can also pursue whatever it is they are interested in regardless of the "cool factor".  It actually tickles me sometimes, and I find it extremely healthy even though I realize many other adults would never understand.  It isn't always the three adopted at older ages either who need that safe place.

A couple of afternoons ago I walked into the boy's room where Matthew sat drawing and painting in water color while listening to classical music by choice.  I just grinned from ear to ear as I put his laundry away, and also realized that were he in a different setting most of the day, we never would see this happening for it would be deemed too "geeky".  A week or so ago I found everyone but Matthew on the floor of the girls' room playing with Barbies and trying to create new clothing for them.  Kenny and Joshie were having as much fun as the girls were and were attempting to sew too!  It was fun to see them being creative and not feel this was strictly a "girls activity".  It was also important for Angela and Olesya, despite being 12 and 13, to have time to do things they never got to do when they were younger.  I know few girls their ages these days would be caught dead playing with dolls, but I am very, very grateful they can do so without fear of ridicule.
Barbie needs a haircut!

Josh sewed this little top!

Kenny's doll never did get quite dressed :-)

Shampoo anyone?

There is also the rebirth of the mind, which has been startling in the girls.  Their curiosity has been piqued, and the non-book loving, bored with academics kids we brought home have lit up in a million ways, and are seriously beyond any expectations we ever would have had for them at the year and a half mark home.  Writing in English, reading and comprehending so much, asking to look up things they are interested in, it is as if someone opened the flood gates!
Using coins to represent Kings, nobility and serfs as we study various forms of government and  the advantages and disadvantages of each. Communism doesn't work, but then we already knew that first hand :-)

The rebirthing process continues here as Kenny's lip and nose heal to reveal the new version..."Kenny 3.0"!!! Oh, how thrilled he is with the results!  Many don't notice much of a difference, not having spent much time looking closely at his face and not being the one wearing it in this world.  The subtle difference is just perfect, the scars are straight as Kenny had long hoped for, and already less noticeable than his previous ones which were wider and further apart.  His nose has the tiniest difference but definitely is an improvement worth having the work done.  Kenny is surprised at how much happier he is with his nose as well, and it is great to see him feeling so good about himself rather than thinking he is ugly.  I think this surgery was a rousing success and he will never again look in the mirror and judge himself lacking, and that is the most important thing.  Here, take a look 2 weeks post-op:

He's BAAAAACCCKKK!!!  LOVE that smile!!!
God built this family, and continues to work with us, mold us, and lift us up every single day.  Sure, we have rough waters sometimes, everyone does.  But we never, ever forget...we are LaJoy's.  We are Team LaJoy.  We have each other, we have others, we have God.  Nothing else is needed, nothing.  If we are open to the process, we are all being rebirthed daily.  Every day we start anew, for God gives us do-overs every single day.

And 45 years later, I still know I need a re-do most days :-)


Barbara said...


Happy Birthday again. The 22nd would have been my Mom's 68th birthday and for some reason it was hard for both myself and my sister Sheila. I think how lucky we were to have you in our lives while she was sick and able to "snag" a Cabbage Patch doll for her during her illness. I cannot tell you how much joy that brought to her. Sheila now has that at her house. You miss those little things but those memories are still so strong. I can see her standing in our garage when you brought it to the house as if it were yesterday. I truly thank you for that memory. I am so glad your children are creating such wonderful memories. You and Dom are so blessed to have such wonderful children.


Anonymous said...

Another beautiful post from you--being a part of the life of Team LaJoy is a rebirthing for me. I see how God is working in and through you, in and through those of us who are in your sphere. I also see how families should work. I know, I know, you would say you aren't perfect. No family is, but the love, respect, communication, curiosity,and compassion your family practices are the qualities every family should have, every child should experience, every couple should give each other.

Thanks for sharing,

4texans said...

I love your update. Happy birthday to you and Olesya! It's been wonderful to follow your journey and see how much your kids (especially the girls) have blossomed. Your son's new smile is awesome, you can see how much he loves the changes and it will surely boost his self esteem. It's wonderful that you let the kids be kids and not push them to grow up.

Anonymous said...

Hi - I'm sorry I didn't search through for the best place to post this, but I found a few science experiment websites that your kids might like to get involved in: