Sunday, June 30, 2013

Roll Out Those Lazy, Hazy, Crazy, Ole' Days of Summer

Our last day of school!  Hooray
The last of the pencils and crayons are put away.  They lasted a whole school year. But now. . .we'll be getting some new ones.  The laid back mornings have begun.  Lingering over coffee while the boys play "just 5 more minutes Mommy."  Moving slower, noticing more, relaxing.  Our last day of home school was the 21st of June.  What progress the boys have made!  There is cause to celebrate and recount all the faithfulness of God, in all the millions of little things He accomplished in our little class room.  This will take some time to do, and I'm all for taking the time.

One of the most important things I have learned about my adopted boys is that the obvious answer is hardly ever the answer.  It takes a great deal of time and effort to get to the root of any situation.  We used to wonder where we would find all the time it would take and God had the answer in front of us all the time.  "Be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry!"  James 1:19.  As the boys become more secure in our family, they have more to say.  Sometimes it comes out angry, sometimes sad and even somtimes happy.  Peter actually started saying, "I'm sad, Mommy."  By listening, taking the time to empathize with them, we built a foundation of learning.
Thus the heavens and the earth were finished and all the host of them.  And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done.  So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation. Gen. 2:1-2
God was calling me to rest from the intensity of home school.  This whole first week was hard because I was listening to the wrong voices saying, "Just because you are on a break doesn't mean you don't do anything, that's lazy."  By Wednesday afternoon I was completely spent and I could finally hear His voice, the only voice worth listening to, saying, "I give my beloved rest.  Rest and refresh."  By God's grace, that's just what I did.  If God rested after He finished His work of creation and made the day holy, who I am to argue.  Then this little thought came to me.
I want to rest when it's time to run and I want to run when it's time to rest!  I am not exhausted because of any burdens or loads, I am exhausted because I am disobeying God.
Once that thought took hold of my heart and attention, peace flooded my soul and the pajamas stayed on!  The boys and I were able to just be playful with each other, talk to each other, listen to each other, snuggle each other.  We are able to go to the pool and continue our "rest" doing the one thing on earth that always brings the boys great pleasure, swimming.  And the most remarkable thing happened. All the repetition, all the things learned, all the therapies, all the structured times, the new games, the field trips spill out!  Eliot reads words on labels and loves the "rhyming game".  He runs around at the pool making friends.  He is showing signs of self-governing as situations arise where there is a choice to obey or disobey.  I love how he begins talking to himself and winds up convincing himself to not do or do!

Peter is talking so much more.  His inter-relational skills with our family seemingly overnight have favorably changed.  And because of all the swimming he is doing it seems like he has grown taller.  He too is making friends and looks forward to seeing them whether at church or the pool.  The melt downs happen less and less as he begins to use more and more of his vocabulary.  And because God called me to rest, because God called me to take off the "teacher" hat, and put on the "Mommy on a rest" hat, I get to bask in the goodness of God to our little family, our little school and all the work that He began and completed.  It stirs in me a desire to obey more quickly and run more directly to Him for instruction.  And if that is happening for me, then it is happening for them.  And it is happening.

One of my favorite quotes is by Jim Elliot, a missionary who lost his life for the Gospel.  He said, "Wherever you are, be all there."  So for the rest of my little summer break, my little boys and I will be enjoying God, and each other.  We will laugh, cry, try new things, go to family camp.  We will learn to canoe, dive off the diving board, find our courage in the big kids pool.  We will read stories all snuggled up together, play a few games, learn to ride a bike and sing.  When our favorite songs come on we'll drop everything and shake our booties!  Yes, and we will thank Jesus for making it all happen, for making it fit all together.  Bring it on, we're all here.  Hope you too enjoy your lazy, hazy, crazy ole' days of summer.

Monday, June 10, 2013

What a Difference a Year Makes!!!

Peter at 6 months of age
On June 7, 2008 a little boy called Man-Yu Chen, was born in Hong Kong.  He was born with an extra chromosome and therefore was placed into the system for adoption.  By the time he was 1 1/2 years old, a family half way across the globe saw his picture and heard the call from God to give him a forever home with them.  16 months later, Peter Yonah Inglin was transported by us, his forever parents, to his forever home. 

3rd Birthday in Hong Kong 6/7/11

Peter's 4th Birthday 6/7/12
Peter's 5th Birthday 6/7/13

We celebrated Peter's 3rd birthday apart because of a paperwork error.  However, his 4th birthday was celebrated with family and friends.  As I look over the pictures from that birthday to now, the phrase my mother would always say to me, "Jill, a year makes a world of difference" rolled over in my mind.  It has been a banner statement for me during the whole of our girl's home school education and in every other area of life where applicable.  Peter's 5th birthday was celebrated over the whole weekend.  Starting off with some significant Super hero time with his favorite super hero, Eliot, and ending with a birthday bash at Chic-fil-a with friends.  Saturday also was packed with fun.  Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) had it's annual Rock for CHOP fundraiser, where we played for prizes and danced to live bands.  Sunday after church, we packed a picnic supper for an evening of music at Grings Mill Park.  Steven Courtney was excellent with his lively, engaging kids songs and then some blues at the amphitheater.  Lots of fun was had by all.

Last year began Peter's various therapies.  He grew slowly as he continued to trust and attach to our family.  There were God-ordained set-backs and interruption to his process.  But God provided for us a team of qualified therapists to help the process along.  They are true heroes to us.  Their expertise and attention to Peter's specific needs paid off as we headed into Pete's I.E.P. meeting 2013.  He grew in all areas, fine motor skills, gross motor skills, speech and pre-educational skills for school age.  Our team is amazing and we thank God for them in our prayers each week.

We used to call communication with Peter, Peter language.  We got it. . .but that was about it.  As he has continued to feel safer with us, he also began to want to communicate.  I believe this is one of the most critical turn of events in Peter's life and growth.  The safer our little adopted ones feel, the more secure their footing, the more they unfold to their families.  When he calls for us, he wants his Daddy and Mommy to come, not just those nice workers who feed, cloth and care for his daily needs.  Specifically us! And what a great gift that is to us.

Peter has also grown in his knowledge of Jesus.  Often, as the hustle and bustle of getting the meal on the table happens, Peter is the one extending his hands for the family prayer.  He prays in his own language, but clearly ends with, "in Jesus name, Amen."  We learned the song God Is So Good using sign and again he initiates the singing of that song.  And, the biggest praise we have is his willingness, eagerness, to enter into Sunday School.  He has friends, he completes his crafts and helps clean up the mess at the end of the time.  He even gets into trouble.  How marvelous is that!

Home school has been a real blast as Peter, Eliot and I descend the steps each morning to learn.  Many times this past school year, as I was working with Eliot on a particular concept, I would catch Peter out of the corner of my eye repeating what he heard me say to Eliot.  He has mastered all his noun flash cards, the "p" ending sound, verb cards and various other flash cards.  He recognizes his name and loves it when we sing;
"There is a boy who's awfully sweet and Peter is his name - o, P-E-T-E-R, P-E-T-E-R, P-E-T-E-R and Peter is his name - o."
He interacts with different stories as well.  Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do You See? by Eric Carle is one of his favorites.  By following 2 and 3 step directions, Peter has shown that he comprehends what is read by picking the correct animal from the choices given him each time.  Puzzle manipulation, matching colors, stringing beads, imitating our actions are just a few of the ways he has grown educationally.  We have also required that Peter use his words more and in doing so, his language has come along way.

We still have a long way to go, and don't we all! But Peter continues to love to learn.  Our process IS, 2 steps forward, 3 steps back and we accept that as good from God.  We learn, relearn, do and redo, all as a family.  And we realize that this year wouldn't be such a banner year if it weren't for all the folks helping to make it happen.  Thank you BCIU team, DS Support Group of Berks Co., Post Adoption Support Group of Berks Co., Inglin Family, Biblical, Paul David Tripp, Christ Community Church, Emily, Megan, Eliot, Daddy, Mommy, and most of all God.  You have all made a difference in our boy's life and we are eternally grateful.

Some other highlights from Peter's 5th Birthday!

Hulk Smash
Super hero Time!
Rock for CHOP Concert
Outdoor Concert 

Monday, May 27, 2013

Celebrating Memorial Day

It's apart of my very fabric, the start of the summer season, the first time we, as kids, were allowed to swim in the farm pond and the Vincentown Memorial Day parade.  Surrounded by family and friends, grilling hot dogs, playing baseball.  Traditional Memorial Day is May 31, but it is celebrated every year on the last Monday of the month of May.  It's a time when we honor the men and women in the armed services that gave their lives in service for their country.  I still get choked up when the older Veterans who are driven first through the parade route.  It is right and fitting that they should be honored first.

Thank you for your Service
As a kid, I could hardly sleep prior to parade day.  Not only did we do a mad dash to a store to get a new bathing suit because last year's didn't fit, but we got to be in the parade.  Our parents would decorate our bikes with red/white and blue streamers, small American flags and a good wash job so that we could join our friends as participants in this annual event.  I owned a horse, so for a few years I got to ride her.  Man, was that a sleep snatcher!  I could hardly sleep just thinking about showing up the next morning on my beautiful horse Cinnamon and waving to the crowds lining the route.  And, all my family was there, Aunts, Uncles, cousins, Grandparents, you name it they were there.

It is the night before the parade and as Thom, the boys and I walked through our neighborhood, Eliot would run ahead and say, "Look, an American flag!  I'm American, I'm American."  Both of our sons went to bed without even watching their nightly show of Sesame Street!  They needed their rest for the big parade.  The parade in our area alternates years between a neighboring town and our town.  This year it is in the neighboring town.  We drive down the road a bit and park the car.  We all pile out with our chairs and find the perfect spot.  Our parades consist of local officials, fire companies, horses, marching bands, local library groups, decorated bikes and of course the honored Veterans.  Most of the time, and this is my boys favorite part, the parade participants throw candy out to the boys.  They join in the din a youngsters dashing and darting into the street to grab the sweet treats.  Oh, it is so much fun.  After lunch and much needed refreshment we will trek out to our local swimming pool, and freeze in the water for our first swim of the season.  To conclude is the classic American bar-b-q of hot dogs, hamburgers, chips, games and maybe even some fireworks.

I am truly grateful for these brave heroes that laid their lives down for us so that we could sit, unafraid and enjoy the freedom of gathering together as a community to celebrate liberty.  Our boys have been welcomed into our country through adoption and are now American citizens.  This country's history is now the redemptive part of their life history.  There is a marked time in their history where they can look and see acceptance, belonging, worth.  God bless America, my home sweet home!

Here are some snapshots from this year's parade festivities!

"We're here, we're finally here!"
Here we are minus our Megan
Sharing good times with our dear friends the Ruoss'

Love my Daddy
Blowing bubbles on Memorial Day!  Excellent!!
The 4 Musketeers

The payoff!  A great big purple lollipop!

Happy Memorial Day!  Now off to the pool

Friday, May 17, 2013

What Do May Flowers Bring?

Wait for it. . . . . Pilgrims right?  I couldn't resist! 
Even though I have allergies to just about all of Spring I really do love how magnificently God wakes all things up from their winter slumber.  Greens are so much greener, color pops up everywhere in the forms of beautiful delicate flowers and there is just more light as the days grow longer.  As I think back over this past month recognizing similarities to what's happening outdoors and what's happening on the inside are clear!  God be praised.

We started out the month running.  Our beautiful Emily received her Associates degree from BTI (Berks Technical Institute).  The ceremony was beautiful and I cried very hard.  God was there with Thom and I as we sat and watched the graduates walk in.  I got to thinking back when she was born and wondering how all the pieces would come together and as I watched this young woman take hold of her award praise flowed out of my heart to God.  He had the perfect field for her to study, the IT field.  He had the perfect school for her to attend, BTI.  God placed all the players in their spot and wove them together into her story to try her faith, to challenge her beliefs and to help her mature. She was the only girl in the evening classes and often came home discouraged at their treatment of her.  But on May the 3rd, with her head held high and a smile to beat the band our girl strode forward, took hold of her god-given future knowing that God sustained her and brought her safely to that point in her life.  One beautiful Rose put in our vase.

Megan has been working at Panera Bread for the past few months.  She has struggled with trusting in God's unique plan for her life.  It doesn't look like any other of her friend's lives.  She is tempted to compare herself to them and feel inadequate.  By God's grace, our girl is humble in asking our counsel and we have been able to love her through these difficult times.  Just talking with her today as we traveled to buy vegetables, with the boys in tow, she was sharing how kind God was to remind her that He had the plan for her life and that she can trust Him.  One beautiful Daffodil added into our vase.

We have been home schooling Eliot this school year.  He has been doing Kindergarten work.  Teaching our kids is so much more than learning to read and write, it's about God.  Everyday in every way I have presented the Cross and his need for the cross as we work through letters and numbers.  The reason why we do all things, being God's glory, and the importance of knowing God and His Word have been powerful tools in this feeble teacher's hands.  We have fought the Goliath of "I can't!", and "I don't know!" with the smooth stones of scripture and as we enter the last days of school we see the fruit of triumphant learning as the giants of doubt and fear fall into the dust.  I am hearing things like, "Hey Momma, that word is pig, I learned to read that in home school." Or, "It's getting easier to figure out this stuff Mom!"  Our vase gets fuller as the climbing Clematis arrives.

And then there is Peter.  Remember the rule of thumb I mentioned in my last post about how long it takes children to fully adjust?  It's not a pop quiz, honestly, I just like the tool as a measuring stick to God's faithfulness.
 "For as many months as  child is in his country before coming to his forever home, that's how many months it takes for them to adjust to their new home."
It is really amazing to see Peter blossom.  He has really been freely showing his emotions.  His speech is increasing daily.  He runs and plays with the best of them and keeps up.  He has a friend in Sunday School that he gets in trouble with and helps the teachers clean up with.  There was one little girl he made friends with on a playground around our home.  When they see each other at the particular playground, they greet each other and play.  Recently, as we worked out some details for Peter's IEP, God solidified for us and for the team the most important social structure for Peter to know that he knows, that's his family structure.  Peter has a family! And we have Peter!!!  God is mindful of our little Peter with DS and cares for lovingly.  God places this exotic Tiger Lily into our vase.  What fragrance!

Thom and I attended a marriage conference in March.  What Did You Expect? a book written by Paul David Tripp, and taught to us by Paul, was the plow that broke apart the harden soil of complacency in our marriage so that God could plant fresh seeds for a fruitful harvest.  Our church has been holding a Marriage workshop to go over the material more in-depth.  The fallow ground in my heart has growing living hope sprouting up towards God and towards Thommy.  We are grateful for the Son Flower of God's grace that sits as the centerpiece of our family vase. 

May is not over and I expect to see more growth in all of us.  We have just returned from an extended weekend away to the shore with dear friends. The ocean can really put things into perspective and as we gazed at it's beauty and as our senses were overwhelmed and we remembered that God holds all the waters in the palm of His hand we praised Him.  We spoke honestly of the hardships and the revealings, we sang to our maker loudly without hesistation.  We listened for the still small voice to speak.  During one mealtime, as we asked who would want to pray, Peter bowed his head and started praying for us.  When he said amen, not a single dry eye could be found.  We knew God was in our midst.  Ending our month will be a celebration of Emily's 22nd birthday.  Hope springs up. . .Awesome God!

Can a tree decide when to wake up?  Does a flower choose the time of it's arrival?  Can the sun rise earlier and stay up later whenever it wants?  How does a bird know where their food will come?  How does a baby know when it is time to be born?  The answer is God and His plan.  He holds all the answers, and He knows all the paths.  Nothing is hidden from Him.  God is good, God is love and God is for us!  That's really the vase isn't it?  Clay in the potter's hands, flowers of grace freshly put on display with the water of His Son sustaining us.

So what do May flowers bring?. . . Worship, joyful, thankful God-focused, Gospel-centered Worship of the One true living God.. . .Here I am to worship You, dear God.

The boys worshiping God,"I've got the joy, joy, joy"

Sunday, April 21, 2013

April Showers Bring May Flowers

Life is not a highway strewn with flowers Still it holds a goodly share of bliss When the sun gives way to April showers Here is the point you should never miss Though April showers may come your way They bring the flowers that bloom in May So if it's raining, have no regrets Because it isn't raining rain, you know (It's raining violets) And where you see clouds upon the hills You soon will see crowds of daffodils So keep on looking for a blue bird And list'ning for his song Whenever April showers come along
I found myself singing this song early this month.  It kind of rolled around in my mind over and over again.  It is so true for April.  Even though the days are getting longer, the flowers are blooming, the grass is growing and the trees go from dead to alive with green. The weather can be very unpredictable to say the least!  That thought got me thinking about our journey with Peter and this post.

When we started out to adopt Peter we were faced with all the "how to's", the endless stream of paperwork, the fund raising and then the education classes to prepare us for our guy.  There was such an abundance of encouragement as we marched on towards the day we would get Peter.  We, in the Inglin family, call that "best case scenario thinking".  God just calls that grace.

In Hong Kong with Peter on a field trip
Our first year with Peter was full of unpredictable weather!  Looking back on it, I realize what a little survivor we really have in him.  Nothing turned out the way we planned it to go.  Just like when we mom's change out the winter wear for the spring/summer clothes because of a warming trend only to face 2 solid weeks of gray skies and colder temperatures.  2 steps forward, 3 steps back.  We wanted to cocoon this little man into our safe home environment so that he could settle into his new home.  However, that would not be the case as we found ourselves caring for Thom's grieving Mom, the business of my Dad's death and the closing of his estate, and our grieving family often travelling and staying over at other's homes and not our own.  Rain, rain, rain.

Dining out was a hard thing for Peter
Our second year with Peter has seen some sunshine as we put therapies in place and got some down time at home.  We started out this year with a trip to the hospital because of a concussion.  What parent would plan these things for their newly adopted children?  2 steps forward, 2 steps backwards.  Peter was starting to really rely on us to care for him.  Our names were Daddy and Mama, he knew us and some sunshine was breaking through the clouds.  The temperature in our relationship with Peter was warming up and the clothes of inclement weather were getting put away.  He was settling in.  Partly cloudy!

Sunbeams breaking through
As we head out of our second year and into our third a little phrase keeps rolling around in my mind.  We were told this during one of the many educational classes that Bethany Christian Services sponsored during our wait for Eliot, our first adopted son.  
For as many months as they were in their country, that's how many months it will take for them to truly settle in.
Now, I am sure that some kids adjust more quickly than others but I just like knowing that guideline.  It makes me think about the May flowers that are coming our way.  My faith soars as I remember how God promises in His Word to work all things together for our good.  How rainy, windy, cold are the springtime tools the Father uses to wake up the slumbering trees and the dormant flower bulbs as the wind carries pollen to fertilize the new spring  plants.  As the temperature rises and the flowers pop up from their warm earthen beds, our hearts are gladdened to see their long awaited return.

So back to the question, what parent would plan these things for their newly adopted children?  God the Father!  All these events in Peter's first 2 years with us were purposeful.  What we wanted was smooth sailing and easy transitions, but God always knows best.  He planned out every detail of our lives together with Peter before the foundation of the world.  How awesome is that!  So as May approaches I will be looking for the flowers, because God is faithful.  In and out of whatever season God takes us on the journey of adoption with our boys, I know, I know, I know that His plans are perfect and the very best for them and that I can trust in Him to bring them through to fruition. 

So. . .
And where you see clouds upon the hills You soon will see crowds of daffodils So keep on looking for a blue bird And list'ning for his song Whenever April showers come along
Happy Spring!

Spring has Sprung!

Monday, April 1, 2013

March Madness: Sensing the Change of the Time!!!

In our country, the USA, we have a whole month devoted to Collegiate Basketball finals.  They call it March Madness.  Well, the Inglin family has borrowed that term for our March, 2013.

God wastes nothing:  We attend an adoption support group monthly and the topic was sensory processing disorders.  The speaker was excellent and we rode home grateful for the applicable information.  Little did we know how quickly God was going to be applying the information in our lives.  You see, March 10th would begin Daylight savings time where we spring ahead 1 hour.  It's a quaint custom in our country where twice a year we mess with God's timing by setting the clocks ahead in the spring and behind in the fall exactly 1 hour.  So what's the big deal!  You lose sleep or gain it, simple as that except if you have sensory processing issues which our boys do exhibit.
(Back Story 1)  Thommy and I finally got to go to our church's annual Sweetheart's Banquet.  It was originally scheduled for Feb. 8th but got snowed out.  We had a great time, so much so that we decided to take a whole Saturday and drive to the ocean at Cape May, NJ, making a stop at the free Cape May Zoo, just be together.  Well, and this is totally in hindsight, we forgot about the springing ahead.  The sensory overload from the beach and the zoo, coupled with the long drive set us up for what I can only describe as MARCH MADNESS.
The Madness begins:   When the boys awoke for church that Sunday, they were clearly disoriented and we started seeing the different behaviors associated with these changes.  Peter couldn't communicate clearly or understand why he was being fed earlier and so therefore, he shut down on his eating and cried and cried.  Eliot just got angry and kept saying, "Will someone please stop this!" repeatedly.  Of course, this causes all kinds of relational tension for the rest of us that just want ease and comfort.  So there we were in the middle of a muddle.  But God. . .

Wisdom Enters:  God was inviting us to pray.  He knew exactly what was going on and how to help the boys.  But did we ask?  God knew exactly what it was going to take to bring us to our knees.  After all, didn't we just have a wonderful teaching on the sensory issues that our adopted kids exhibit and face.  After a couple of weeks of "trying to figure out what was happening" both Thom and I felt the conviction of the Holy Spirit and repented.  Then we began praying specifically for each of our boys.

I Can See Clearly Now:  God then answered our prayers for wisdom and began to use scripture and the excellent resources at our disposal to reach the boys.  For Peter, it was a really an excellent opportunity to deepen his understanding of the God-given meaning of Daddy and Mommy.  He knows that our names are Daddy and Mommy, but God wanted him to understand the authority of those names and He was using the change in time to do it.  Each time Peter was out of control we had him repeat scripture with us (Eph. 6:1).  We explained that he needed to trust and obey us and that we would help him through.  By God's grace, this gentle reminder slowly brought Peter to a better place; out of madness and into peace.

New Beginnings:  April has arrived and so has our boys smiles again.  Eliot's anxious behaviors are once again smaller and Peter's willingness to eat has improved with less tears.  But it's not just the outward behavior that has changed, but an inward joy.  One night recently, Eliot, who is 6 asked Jesus to live in his heart after a time of training.  It was a precious time for us and as we continue to look for the fruit of this confession it blessed us to know that out of the sensory overloads this little boy was facing, he found his answer, his peace in Jesus.  Peter, well this morning at family devotions was amazing.  It was the first time since we sprung ahead in time that Peter participated in Bible study accompanied by a lengthy prayer (in Peter language which is so cute).  It was in this moment that I knew that I knew God had answered our prayers for help with the boys and met their needs in such a loving personal way.

Was March a Wash?:  Not with God working all things together for good!  There were very sweet moments that I would never trade for just "keeping the peace".  Real inner change!  Only God can bring about lasting change.  We really can trust Him with the unknowns of life.  

Snapshots of March:
1.  Sweetheart's Banquet 3/8

2.  Cape May 3/9

3.  Playing with friends 3/17

4.  Marriage retreat with Paul Tripp 3/15-16.

Peter hanging out with his sisters while we are at the marriage conference.
5.  Peter became a United States Citizen on 3/18.

6.  International Down Syndrome Day 3/21

7.  Easter with Family 3/31

Annual Cousins picture

Annual Family Easter Picture

Handsome Boys Ready for Easter Sunday

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Stirrings to a Plan! The Faithfulness of God in Our Marriage

23 Years ago I married my best friend.  I love celebrating our anniversary every year yet this year seemed sweeter.  I can still remember the moment pictured here when our pastor, Harry Thomas, announced us "Husband and Wife".  There are a few words to describe how I felt; "Saved, Hemmed in, New Life, United, JOY!"  So what's so special about 23 years?  How did this anniversary differ from any other?  What characterized this year?

I can answer all of these questions with one thing, God's grace.  This was a hard year on us as a couple. Adoption is a glorious thing.  Adding any child, whether biologically or through adoption is a true gift and with each new addition comes the new challenges of keeping the marriage a priority.  We have had many different seasons but this one with all the ups and downs have produced the most fruit.

In 1993, Thom and I entered a Sovereign Grace church newly planted in the Cherry Hill, New Jersey area.  We were struggling as newly-weds and as new parents of 2 small children.  We were immediately aware that God had placed us in a safe harbor where healing and equipping would take place.  One of the things we learned that has impacted us to this day we actually learned in a parenting seminar.  Roger and Dottie Small, our Pastor's in-laws, were teaching our group and as they were counseling us they said, "The best gift you can give to your children is a great marriage".  We had become so child focused in our family that our marriage took a backseat to their needs while our needs basically were being ignored.  Things started changing radically as we embraced this truth and the parenting truths being taught as well as linking arms with other married couples in the fight for GREAT.

Why put this here in a blog about Peter?  Adopting children brings challenges to families, to marriages.  But God. . .!  In this season of acclimating Peter to our family and our family to Peter, our marriage got pushed to the back ground as we worked with all our children.  We were all affected relationally and we all clung tightly to God and his promises as we walked through months of uncomfortable change.  Thom and I found ourselves exhausted with no energy for one another.  However, the thoughts of God's grace, the truths of scripture and the prayers of our church family brought us through abundantly!

Peter came home July 22, 2011.  Both of our Dad's died and an estate needed settling (2011-2012).  Older kids needed to talk until late hours and reassurance that things would be alright in Christ, and younger children needed such care so that they would know that they know God saved them and placed them forever in our family. (on-going)  In August of 2012, we sensed the Lord call us to go away and we went.  God awakened the desire and the energy we needed for each other.  We wanted more and more time alone and realized that we had to get creative and find a new plan to meet the demands of family and our refreshed desire for one another.  Each week, with all the new scheduling we made the effort.  We planned to weekly date outside the home, to purposefully make times in-house where we connect, including daily devotions in the early morning. We even went away for 3 days to Cape May right before Christmas.  The Lord willing, we will go away for overnights every quarter. The dates won't have anything to do with the kids and their issues.  Instead we will be going through the book, Love Dare, and implementing the exercises.

February 9, 2013, Thom and I went away eager to just be alone and to celebrate 23 years of God's faithfulness to us in our marriage.  In the quiet of the room we humbly accepted all that God did in our family and looked forward to what He would accomplish in the future.  He kept us and guided us like a water course during the difficulties and joys of Peter's adoption and addition to our family.  He has further refined our marriage, strengthened our faith and 23 years later we find ourselves singing the same song, "Great is thy Faithfulness" to our great God and King.

This is the best we can do for our kids, biological and adopted.  Wherever you are at in the adoption process, be all there!  Cling to God and depend on Him to bring you through each day.  However, when you hear that small voice saying, "It's time!  You've got a good start with the kids, now give them the gift of a Great Marriage." Jump on it! Prioritize it! Plan it!  It's not going to be easy, but it is worth it and it is the very best gift we can leave them with.  A Dad and a Mom, deeply in love with each other and their Savior.  All by God's grace, done in His faithfulness.