Tuesday, March 25, 2014

In the darkest valley... You are close beside us!

Last night Sweet Girl decided that she was mad at me for asking her to do a chore.  Then she decided that hitting her little sister would be a good strategy for letting me know she was mad.  This is new behavior for SG.   

So this is my very unprofessional interpretation of why this happened:  I have been hit, kicked, bit, scratched, spit on, and cussed at so many times in the last 2 years that it really doesn't get any reaction from me anymore.  BUT SG "needs" that reaction.  She's seeks it out because when she is able to get Mom (or Dad) to react emotionally she feels powerful.  She is addicted to that feeling so when she doesn't get the desired reaction she "takes it up a notch".   And that is why she hit Nik Nak. Nik Nak wasn't hurt physically, but emotionally she was devastated.  And it has been my experience that once SG does something once, it gets much easier for her to repeat the behavior the next time she is dysregulated.  We covet your prayers for protection over our littles' bodies and hearts.

We are at a loss as to what to do next to help SG.  We are organizing a night of prayer over our home.  We have been impressed that a lot of what we are dealing with needs to be fought in the spiritual realm.  

"For though we live in the body, we do not wage war in an unspiritual way, since the weapons of our warfare are not worldly, but are powerful through God for the demolition of strongholds." 2 Corinthians 10

We also have a lead on a possible therapist.  I (and hopefully my Knight in Shining Armor if he can get off work) will meet with her next Monday night.  I am not getting my hopes up too high yet, we have had a lot of dead ends in the therapist department... but this one does look promising.  She is trained in equine therapy and also in EMDR.  We know that traditional "talk therapy" is all but useless in SG's situation... so we have been looking for someone with more tools in their toolbox.  Pray with us that this will work out!!

If I am honest there have been moments of feeling hopeless and just wanting to give up.  But I can't.  I NEED to believe that God is going to show up, that He is going to redeem the years the locusts have eaten, and that He is going to get great glory from what looks like an impossible situation.  I HAVE to believe.  I STILL believe.  Even if it takes many many years, just like it did for Joseph, I know that "What Satan means for evil, God means for good."

"Even when I (we) walk through the darkest valley, I (we)will not be afraid, for you are close beside me (us)." Psalm 23

"We've been surrounded and battered by troubles, but we're NOT demoralized; we're not sure what to do but we know God knows what to do; we've been spiritually terrorized, but God hasn't left our side; we've been thrown down, but we haven't broken." 2 Corinthians 4

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Healing is a process not a destination...

Our Sweet Girl* (SG from now on) has been home for 7 weeks.  Those 7 weeks have had some ups and some downs.  This week we had a massive meltdown that included a violent temper tantrum and aggression aimed at me... when Mark was at work.  BUT GOD was there.  God and so many praying friends (Thank you private Facebook adoption support group!) helped me to stay completely calm as things flew around the house, as our daughter spoke words that no parent should ever hear, as I became the physical target for her emotional pain.  Two good friends came to help diffuse the situation which helped immediately since SG does not want to embarrass herself in front of others.  Mariah took her on a run, and they went and bought a plant.  When they returned there was a complete change in demeanor and attitude, and since that day, SG has been a complete angel.  A joy and a pleasure to be around.

Thank you all for praying and supporting this healing journey that we are on with SG.  I wish I could express in words the miracles that God has already done, in us, and in her.  Despite this week's apparent setback I can honestly say that SG is making healing progress.  She has better coping skills, more self control, more maturity.  When she is regulated she is fun to be around, helpful, cooperative, she is doing really well.   She is off all medication and she is being successful at school.  I have great hope.  Tuesday night I was calm outside but inside I was scared.  (Crying to God that I didn't know if I could go back to "the way things were").  But truth is, we aren't going back.  We are moving forward.  Healing is happening, healing will continue to happen.  God is faithful and He is in the business of redemption. Count on it.

From "I want to kill you" on Tuesday to this on Saturday... This is called HOPE.

If you want to better understand what life is like when you are parenting a hurt child, please read the following letter... it explains things really well...

My Life as a Parent of a Traumatized, Attachment-Disordered Child

*I want to write more and openly about our adoption journey, and about the struggles and joys we face as a family with children who have had traumatic histories, but I also want to protect their stories.  I could make the blog private, but that would prevent other adoptive families from benefitting from our story.  So as I have time I am going back through the blog and changing names to pseudonyms.  I am an open person, and I do want to share and help as many people as possible, I want other adoptive families to know there is struggle, and hope, and redemption.  I feel this is a good compromise.

Monday, January 13, 2014

It's been good!

Our trip to Montana to pick up Sweet Girl (SG) was mostly uneventful... the drive from Spokane to Eureka was full of bright sunshine, clear blue skies, and beautiful snow covered mountains.  We had a slight glitch in FREEZING COLD Minneapolis (-11 degrees!) with the plane having a maintenance problem which delayed us 6 hours.  We got free Pei Wei lettuce wraps and Starbucks  out of the deal so it wasn't so bad.

I'm not going to lie, our first full day back was rough.  SG's anxiety was pretty high and if you know anything about kids with traumatic histories then you know when stress is high they go to their "lower brain" also known as "survival mode".  This was not a good start.  However, we asked for prayer from a lot of people who understand, and day two was a good bit better.  As SG began to feel safe and settle into a routine,  she started making better choices, catching herself before making up stories, and acting less hyper.  Sunday we went to church and her anxiety was definitely up again, but she held it together and relaxed as the day went on.

Sunday was also her birthday, so we went to Cracker Barrell with Grandma and Grandpa, then came home and I made a HUGE chocolate chip cookie and we had ice cream.  She got a card with money from Grandma and Grandpa... between Christmas and her birthday she has quite a savings built up.  Then as we were having family prayer time before bed I suddenly remembered that we never gave her her birthday present from US!  (Side Note: Of the 5 love languages, gift giving is LAST on my list... oops!)  We remedied the situation and let everyone have a few extra minutes trying out the pogo stick before bed.

Overall, I don't think the week could have gone much better than it did.   And I am hopeful that this isn't just a "honeymoon".  Thanks to everyone who has prayed for SG, and please keep praying... for how we can help her with her anxiety, so that that upper brain will function well,  for us to have continued grace and understanding in those times when discipline issues do arise, and for wisdom in handling the minor issues that come with parenting a child who is emotionally much younger than her physical body.   I have great hope that we will see SG succeed and THRIVE as the spunkiest member of the Van Clan.  As the T-shirt we bought her the other day says so well.... "Vote for me 2028... The future is bright and sparkly!"   Yes it is sweet girl, yes it is.

Friday, January 3, 2014

It's Time!

We will be leaving for the airport in less than an hour to go get Sweet Girl (SG)!  We are all very excited  to see her and squeeze her.  Mark and I are also a little ambivalent, wondering what the future brings, but we already see God working.  Today Mark received news that he was hired for a new job.  Less hours, less stress, more money.  All things that will be helpful in parenting a child who struggles.  So we are committed to keeping everything in perspective, to remembering that the one who chose us for this task, also provides all things necessary to do it well.  Above all we are HOPEFUL, that God has done a work in SG's heart, and that she will be successful in our family.  Last time we spoke on the phone she told us that she "knows God has been helping her so so so much".  Amen.  So, here we go, it's time!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

May God Multiply our Loaves

Monday and Tuesday we visited an orphanage where about 20 children lived.  They did not have much, but they did have clean clothes, food to eat, and were obviously cared for by the woman who ran the orphanage.  Had we just visited this one place while we are in Haiti, I may not have called these children blessed.  But they are.

Today we went to an orphanage with 45 children of all ages.  Immediately we knew that this place was not like the first (where the kids were loved and well cared for).  The children were too thin, their clothing too dirty, their bedroom held 19 beds and I am certain they slept at least 2 to a bed.  Some beds had torn up sheets, some beds had none.

Our leader, Melanie, went to the market and bought some food supplies as we do for each orphanage that we visit. By the time it was 3 pm the children still had not eaten a meal.  We had some bread and some peanut butter for our team's lunches and we calculated that it was enough for each child to have half a slice with a smear of peanut butter.  As I made the sandwiches others passed them out.  We got to the bottom of the peanut butter jar and we still needed two more slices, so we switched to jam.  When the jam was gone, the children asked for the jar.  They put their hands in and got out all they could, when they couldn't get any more with their hands they filled the jar with water to loosen the jam and drank it.  They were that hungry.

This morning it was my turn to share a devotion and I talked about how we don't have to have all the answers and we don't have to solve every problem.  God can take our "loaves and fishes" or insufficiency or weakness and make it into so much more.  I was speaking figuratively, but little did I know He would use our literal loaves today too.  Please pray that God multiplies our loaves even in their hungry little bellies.  Pray that the God of the universe would be sufficient to meet their needs because I (we) certainly am (are) not.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Haiti Trip day 1 and 2

This morning Mariah woke up and made our last minute preparations for leaving.  Mark was to come home around 2pm and we would leave shortly after for the airport.  That was the plan… but then we were Proverbed (yes I just made that up).

You can make many plans,
  but the Lord’s purpose will prevail. (Prov. 19:21)

Our original flights were to take us to Chicago O'hare and since I knew it was snowing up thataway I decided to check our flights.  It was about 10:30 and I put our flight number in an online flight tracker and see CANCELLED in big red letters.  Now in all my years as a military spouse you'd think I would have had a flight or two cancelled on me but alas, I have not.  I had no clue what that meant.  Cancelled and ????  But no, just cancelled.  I quickly call our team leader who advises me to call the airline.  41 minutes and 2 non-helpful customer service reps later we are still waiting.  Plan B was to head to the airport and try to get on an earlier flight that was going to Dallas and then Miami.

Getting to the airport could have been a problem since Mark was at work and we are a one car family right now.  BUT thankfully God knew our need and our good friend Kelsey had just stopped by.  We quickly threw everything in her jeep kissed the kids, called the hubs and took off.  Meanwhile our trip coordinator was working our flight problem with the airline.  As we arrive at Tyson-McGhee airport we get a text that the earlier flight was full but that we were able too book with a different airline for a LATER flight.  All that rushing seemed unnecessary.  Ahhh but no, it couldn't be that easy.  To spare you all the tiresome details, let's just say that we had about 2 hours worth of trouble actually getting both of us booked on the same flight.  It was almost funny, and could have been if my head wasn't pounding due to the lack of caffeine in my system, or perhaps the stress+the adrenaline rush of getting to the airport. Either way the end result is that we are know sitting at gate number 10 awaiting our flight to Charlotte and then Miami… and things can only get better from here… right?

Day 2--- Must say today was fairly uneventful.  Arrival in Haiti was something else… crowds and crowds of people and many of them wanting to "help" you with your bags.  We rode in a tap tap back to the hotel, stopping at the Delimart for a few groceries along the way.  We spent the afternoon getting to know each other and sorting through all the things everyone brought to share with the nannies and the kids.  Dinner was delicious… chicken, black rice and some super spicy coleslaw.  Jordan would have loved how spicy that coleslaw was!

We have great internet access and wifi at the guest house.  It hardly feels like we are in a foreign country here… well except for the FREEZING cold shower…lol.  There's no doubt though as soon as you get out of the guest house and into the city of Port au Prince.  Tomorrow morning we head out to our first ministry site… an orphanage with younger kids.  I heard tonight that most of the orphanages here in Haiti are not "official" and therefore most of the kids in them are not adoptable.  Only a small percentage of Haiti's orphans are actually able to be adopted.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

To Haiti with our Loaves and Fishes

Mariah and I leave Saturday afternoon for our "short-term mission" trip to Haiti.  Today we are packing and buying last minute things that we need and it is finally hitting me that we are going.  Until now I have been so busy with school and life that I haven't really been able to think much about this trip… until now.  With our bubbles, hula hoops and jump ropes packed up and ready to go, I now have time to reflect.

While we are there we will be working with 3-4 ministries/orphanages.   There is some controversy surrounding short-term trips and whether or not we can unintentionally do more harm than good.  I am aware of the arguments, many of them valid and deserving of discussion, and yet I think there are still good reasons to go… but not in ignorance!  Not with a God-complex or any sense of superiority, thinking that we will somehow change the world.  And not to make ourselves feel good by "helping the poor".  Let's face it, many of the "poor" are spiritually rich and many of us who are materially rich live in spiritual poverty.  All of us, as fellow humans have gifts we can give each other.

I once had a pastor (who was, and still is a long-term missionary) who used to say that it is easy to "throw money at a need", but there is nothing like taking the love of Christ to others IN PERSON.  Sometimes flesh and blood speaks louder and means more than a mere donation in the offering plate.  Your PRESENCE, and the presence of God's Holy Spirit within you has more life-giving POWER than your dollars.  Short-termers aren't going to change the world or alleviate poverty or impact much of anything on a LARGE scale.  The impact is smaller, more individual, more person to person and not always obvious or tangible, and yet it is still REAL.  Nothing we do as humans will ever be 100% perfect, with 100% perfect motives, and 100% perfect results.  But God is the MASTER of taking broken, imperfect things and making them into something beautiful, He is the MASTER of taking five loaves and 2 fishes and feeding the THOUSANDS.

So as Mariah and I embark on this trip, we are under no illusion that we will change the world.   Leaving any God-complexes behind, we are going to simply offer our loaves and fishes  hula hoops and bubbles and pray that God uses our offering to feed and nourish souls.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

It's official….Sweet Girl is coming home!

Mark just got off the phone with Delta.  It's official we are bringing Sweet Girl (SG) home.  We fly out on Jan 3 and return on the 5th.  We purposely decided in consult with the Ranch to wait until after Christmas.  Holidays are unstructured, chaotic times for most families, which is not a good environment to bring SG home to.  She will get home the week before her 10th birthday though.  She gets home on the 5th and will start school on the 6th.  May sound crazy, but structure and routine are going to be ESSENTIAL.  Thankfully I have about 10 days before going back to school myself to try to help her get settled in.

Our sweet friend Mariah has been living with us and going to college and Kloe will share a room with her.  SG loves Mariah, so I think it will be a good thing.  SG manages her behaviors better when others are around, so hopefully having Mariah here will help her establish some good behavior patterns and self-control within the home.

We are hoping and praying for the best transition possible.  Would you join us?

**Pray for Nik Nak and Bubba Joe.  They were profoundly affected by SG's behaviors, and as a mama, that is so hard to see.  I can handle the stress, but I hated that they had to "handle" it too, and I desperately want to maintain the peace we have had in our home these last months.

**Pray for SG that she can transfer the new healthy habits and ways of behaving to family life.

**Pray for Knight in Shining Armor and I to be patient and wise in our parenting.

**Pray for us all to be full of grace for each other.

**Pray for people to come along side and support us.  Specifically for one family that understands trauma and attachment that can provide respite care if it should be necessary. (Hoping it won't be!)

Monday, September 30, 2013

An update on the Van Clan

Time flies when you are having fun  incredibly busy!!!

A very condensed version of life in the the Van Clan over the last 4 months...

Sweet Girl (SG) is doing alright... good weeks and not so good weeks, but at least the not so good weeks means that things came up that they could work on... so I guess that means that even the "not so good" weeks are good weeks right?  Right now it looks like we will be bringing SGhome the first weekend in January, which is also the week before her birthday.  The thought is exciting and overwhelming at the same time... we covet your prayers.

Nik Nak is going to a very small Christian school and loves it.  There are all ages in her classroom and the bigger kids help with the younger kids, which I think is super cool!

Bubba Joe is in full time preschool.  I had originally planned for a homeschool teen to watch him while I was at school, but I quickly learned that my work of 17 credit hours was going to be overwhelming if I was having to entertain a 3 year old and do homework at the same time.  He loves his new school, and because he is such s precious, kind, and sensitive spirit, his teachers adore him.

Flash won the bronze medal in the 3000M run at the Jr. Olympics this year.  His time was 9:57.  His goal was to break 10 minutes and he did!

Goober will be home from 4+ months of army intel training on Friday.  Missed that boy so much.

Boo and some friends have started a website and have some pretty neat ideas.... check it out...

Knight in Shining Armor started a new full time job working taking x-rays in the TN state prisons.  The first 3+ weeks have been a little crazy with him traveling 1000+ miles a week, and working all the kinks out with a new company.

We have an extra house-guest who is a huge blessing.  Our dear friend Mariah who just graduated from high school is living with us and going to the local community college.  I love how God brought her to us so we could bless her and she has turned out to be a huge blessing to us as well.

Mariah and I were blessed by some amazing obedient friends and because of their obedience we are going on a mission trip to Haiti in December.  It is really such a cool story how it happened.  Our friends had no idea that we told God if He provided the money (within 10 days!) that we would go... and provide He did... through our friends who had no idea what a huge impact their gift and obedience would make!  SO cool.

I am so busy with school that I am amazed I wrote this much!!  It's been so bad that I even turned off my facebook so that I could get all my work done.  Tons and tons of work... and I am loving every minute of it.  I am going to love being a teacher!!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

She's not always smiling... and that is GOOD news!

We had our weekly talk with Sweet Girl's (SG) house parent (aka Angela), and with SG this week.  Angela said that this was the best week SG has had to date.  This is the first time Angela felt that SG was really taking seriously the things that they have been trying to teach her.  She said that this is the first week that SG did not walk around with a smile pasted on her face all day every day.  SIX WEEKS.  That is a long time to be constantly (fake) smiling.   The thing that people often notice about SG when they first meet her is that she has a beautiful smile, and that it is always always on her face.  Then they mistakenly think this means that she is happy.  But it doesn't.  At the Ranch they have seen this before, and they know that the 24/7 smile is not a sign of a happy girl.  It's a sign of a scared girl.  It's a sign of a girl who doesn't identify her feelings.  It's a sign of a girl who doesn't dare show her feelings even if she could identify them. So we were all happy to hear, that at least some of the time this past week, SG felt safe enough NOT to smile.

Please continue to pray for healing for our Sweet Girl.  God has big plans for her!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

They call me "Mommy"...

Boo... beautiful, opinionated, and so very smart... I am so thankful that you made me "Mommy".

Goober... always nurturing and sensitive from the start, you were BORN to be a big brother, even if you had to wait and pray for 12 years before it finally happened.

Nik Nak... truly a miracle baby.  After 8 years of praying for a baby and 2 miscarriages, you were and still are cherished beyond words.

Sweet Girl... My biggest mommy challenge... but I have a feeling some day I will look back and know that it was you that taught me the most about the Father's love for His children.

Flash.... the most generous and resourceful human being I have ever known, and sometimes I can't believe how blessed I am that I get to be your mom.  

Bubba Joe... The boy God promised to us 10 years before you were born.  The biggest and best surprise of our lives, I truly cannot imagine our family without you... the stinking cuteness is too yummy for words.  "I love you and I like you".

Monday, April 29, 2013

The journey of a thousand miles...

“Perhaps only when human effort had done it's best and failed, would God's power alone be free to work.” 

Corrie ten Boom

I love the quote above by Corrie ten Boom.  Sometimes you have to come to the end of yourself and know that God alone is the only hope, the only answer.  

We are back from a whirlwind trip to take Sweet Girl (SG) to the Ranch for Kids in Montana.  In a mere 55 hours we traveled on six airplanes and drove over 500 miles.  Exhausting under even the best circumstances.  At two different times SG became agitated and aggressive on the airplane.  One of the times I thought we could be removed from the plane.  However we were able to get messages out for people to pray, and things improved tremendously and we had no problems whatsoever on the third and final flight.  I'm here to tell you that God answers prayer.  There's no other explanation.  Seriously.

How are we doing?  Lots of people ask this question.   I won't speak for Mark, but I, myself, feel hopeful, peaceful, and relieved.  

Hopeful because I firmly believe that God is going to do a healing work in SG's heart.  

Peaceful because I have no doubt that God led us down this path.

Relieved because... Life with SG had become EXHAUSTING.   We had to be constantly vigilant.  Her anger was expressed aggressively, toward us mainly, but at times toward the littles too. If you have never parented a child who had become a danger to the rest of the family then you probably won't understand our relief.  That's okay.  

Our time at the Ranch was an amazing confirmation to me that we made a good choice.  Bill (the Ranch manager and the one who teaches the kids Biblical truths and relational skills) spoke to SG with great compassion, but at the same time he made it clear that he had high expectations for her.  Some of the things he said to SG were literally WORD for WORD things that we have been telling her for a long time. It felt good to know that we shared the same philosophy and were on the same page.  

While we were talking SG was very fidgety, but she showed no sadness whatsoever when we left.  An indication of how unattached she is to us, even after 4 years, and how high her defenses are.  After the first night I sent off a quick text to find out how she had done.  Her house mother said "We are having a honeymoon.  She acts like she has been here a long time and like she knows everybody".    This was exactly what we expected.  To show sadness or anxiety would be too look vulnerable.  It will take time.  Although it will be painful for SG, we are praying for a very short honeymoon.  Until the walls come down the healing will not begin.  Angela (house mom) said this often takes a few weeks, but as she was observing SG she said "I don't think it will be that long".  I hope she is right.

This morning Nik Nak was an emotional MESS.  She didn't say it was because she was sad SG was not here, but it was clear that something big was going on in her heart.  We decided to wear lime green (SG's favorite color) so that she could feel close to sissy, and so she could remember to pray for her when she saw the color.  I have decided to let seeing lime green be my reminder to pray for SG in that moment.  I would be blessed and so would SG if you would let seeing something lime green be your reminder that SG needs prayer too.  :-)

Thursday, April 25, 2013

My chains are gone....

A few months after coming home from Ethiopia, before SG even had a good grasp of English, she was moved to tears by the words of AMAZING GRACE... The Chris Tomlin version says...

My chains are gone, 
I've been set free
My God, my Savior has ransomed me

And like a flood 
His mercy reigns
Unending love, amazing grace

Tomorrow we set out while it is still dark, we travel all day, spend the night with friends, and get up before dark again on Saturday.  Drive 4 hours, spend a few hours getting Sweet Girl (SG) settled in at the Ranch, drive 4 hours back to Idaho, get up before dark a third day and travel home.  For those of you who pray, we would love you to hold us up to the Father this weekend... here are some areas of need...

1)Safe, easy travel with no delays
2)For the other kids, especially Nikki, her heart is breaking and she has shed tears many times already.
3)For Mark and I.  We know we are making the best choice for SG's healing and for the immediate safety of our family, but we wish there was another way. So many mixed emotions... sadness, hope, relief are all present.  Only those who have lived with a child with attachment difficulties will understand some of our feelings.
4)Adjustment for SG and the rest of us as we find a new normal while we are apart from each other.

Finally... pray SG.  Pray that she can be set free from the chains of trauma and neglect that still haunt her today.  Pray that she can be ransomed from the false beliefs that hold her hostage in a state of survival (and all the damaging behaviors that go with those false beliefs).  Pray for HEALING.  Pray for hope and for God's BEST future for SG.  Pray for a miracle.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

I've been quiet... but life hasn't been.

I've been quiet since we talked about taking Sweet Girl (SG) to the Ranch.  Not because I don't have a lot to say, but because I have SO MUCH to say.  I don't know where to start.  I want to blog more about what we are going through, because I know there are many many other families out there who need to know they are not alone.  Yet, because I am a very open person, I sometimes have a tendency to "overshare" which I am afraid might come across as disrespect for SG's privacy.

We leave for the Ranch on April 26 and have our intake on April 27th.  The day is highly significant... it is the anniversary of the day we first met the kids in Ethiopia.  I'm taking this as a sign from God that this too is a day to celebrate, a chance for hope, healing, and a new beginning.

Last week I talked to a sweet mama whose daughter is about SG's age and also was adopted from Ethiopia.  She spent about 8 months at the Ranch and has now been home with her family for a year.  She is doing well.  This mom encouraged me so much when she said that her daughter came home knowing and believing how much her family loved her, and also knowing so much about the Word of God and what it meant for her life.  Two wonderful things, that I will believe for SG too.

I have so much to say about these last months leading up to this huge decision, about my emotions since we decided, about parenting kids with traumatic histories and attachment difficulties, about the heavy burden of guilt we sometimes carry when "good parenting" and "a loving home" are not enough to heal a wounded heart.  I hope I can put the thoughts swirling around in my head into words.   And I hope those words can encourage others in the thick of parenting kids from hard places.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

God Makes Beautiful Things...

This post is one of the most difficult I have ever had to write.  I don't think there are enough words or the right words to describe what is going on in my heart right now.  Heaviness and hope are having a duel to see who can win the bigger piece.

We have come to realize that Sweet Girl (SG) is not finding healing in our home.  For whatever reason we have not been able to provide what she needs to become healthy and whole.  But God.  He chose us to be her parents.  It's not an accident, He knew that we would have this struggle and we wholeheartedly believe that He also equipped us for it.  What does that mean?  We have decided to send SG to a beautiful ranch in Montana... a Christian ministry for adoptive kids.  A place of healing.  Because God has so much more for SG than "survival"... God wants SG to flourish and thrive and live a life that shouts His glory.  But first healing must come.  Or even just begin.

We don't know for sure how long she will be gone.  The ranch recommends one month for every year of life.  For SG this would mean 9-10 months.  During that time we would like to visit at least once.  We will have weekly telephone calls and family therapy sessions. 

I really have so much more to say, but know this, our commitment to and our love for SG is fierce and strong.  I tell her all the time that God chose me to be her mom because I never give up.  I will go to hell and back if there is a chance that it will heal my child.  This decision is painful, but it is also hopeful.  God has BIG plans for SG... to give her a hope and a future.  Plans to give her so much more than mere "survival".

Only God can take nothing and make it something.  Only God can take dust and give it flesh.  God can take mourning and turn it into joy.  God can.  And God will.

Beautiful Things by Gungor

All this pain
I wonder if I’ll ever find my way
I wonder if my life could really change at all
All this earth
Could all that is lost ever be found
Could a garden come up from this ground at all

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

All around
Hope is springing up from this old ground
Out of chaos life is being found in You

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

You make me new, You are making me new
You make me new, You are making me new

Monday, March 4, 2013

Just like Jonah

Yesterday our Holy Spirit led pastor, Paul, taught from the book of Jonah.  Everyone knows the story, God said "go", Jonah said "no" and a whole bunch of chaos ensued.  Finally Jonah came to his senses and agreed to go, but his heart STILL wasn't totally in it.  

Well this morning, I am feeling a lot like Jonah.  Our child from a "hard place" has been especially hard  on us this past week.  She has been so difficult that I really don't want to get her up this morning, because I know it could mean more of what we've already seen and heard way too much of in recent days.  Those of you who don't live with a child who sometimes does everything in their power to make themselves unloveable, may not understand this, but trust me... while the idea of loving someone who does not want to be loved might sound heroic and romantic in theory, in reality... it vacuums (like a Hoover).  There's no payoff or payback.  It's pure obedience.  And it's stinkin' hard. (And it also gives you a small glimpse of our Father's faithful love toward us when we were most unloveable.)

As Pastor Paul was preaching about Jonah, I was thinking, what a good message this is for my difficult child. (HA!) I was nudging her and pointing out the parts I felt like she should really pay attention to.  Don't judge, you know you've thought about how perfect the sermon was for someone else too!

This morning I had the privilege of waking up at 4:38 and not being able to go back to sleep.  This is what I get for applying God's word to someone else instead of myself.  After an hour of tossing and turning, I gave up and got up.  I was led to the text from Jonah that I thought was perfect for my child:  

"Those who cling to worthless idols forsake faithful love... "

Kids from hard places often have lots of "worthless idols", things that they have a death grip on because they believe their very survival depends on it... it could be control, food, self-reliance, food, shame, food, negative beliefs and feelings, food.  Yeah, food is a pretty obvious one around here...

And they prefer all of those idols to faithful love because... well... love is just plain dangerous.... why risk it?  

But then I realized, my troubled child isn't the only one clinging to things that take her in the wrong direction, further away from God's best.  It's me too.  It's me saying to God, I don't want to go to Ninevah show love and compassion to this child who calls me stupid and spits on me and throws things at my head.  It's too hard, it's not worth it, there's no payback.  

It's me!  I'm no different than Jonah, or my precious daughter, clinging to my stubborn way, digging in my heels and saying I won't go.  My idol.  And suddenly I get it.  Letting go of idols is hard and uncomfortable, and sacrificial.  And you don't just let go once... it's a continual letting go. And I realize... if letting go is this hard for me, how much more difficult for a child who trusts NO ONE.  Not a single human being and not God.

Jonah, didn't stop after the first part of that verse.  He went on to say...

but as for me, I will sacrifice to You with a voice of thanksgiving.  I will fulfill what I have vowed. Salvation is from the Lord!" Jonah 2:8-9

And so I, like Jonah, set my stubborn heart to do what I vowed, what God commands, because obedience brings blessing.  I will do it Lord.  I will obey... I will love, and leave the payback to You.

"But I will sing of Your strength and will joyfully proclaim Your faithful love in the morning. For You have been a stronghold for me, a refuge in my day of trouble."  Psalm 59:16

Monday, February 25, 2013

The Van Clan and the infamous "5 year plan"

So, we have a running joke around here... we make a plan and God changes the plan.  Over the years we have made MANY "5 year plans" that have been completely turned upside down it is a wonder we continue to make them.  In fact I am not even sure I can remember all the iterations of the "5 year plan".

When we were in Japan we felt certain that we were called to ministry there.  When we came back to the states we still felt a strong connection with Japan but we could not really "see" how we would fit into mission work there, since we didn't really have any "skills" that would allow us to live in Japan.

As time went on we began the adoption process and God turned our heart toward Africa and global suffering, and mercy ministry.  We came across the ministry of Mercy Ships and wondered if we might work with them if even for a season.  Mercy ministry was something we could do!  Knight in Shining Armor and I both took EMT school, I was on my way to getting my RN when God closed that door due to a bad back.  I then decided to pursue my teaching certificate and Mark was still pursuing the medical field as an X-ray tech.  Mark and I both get our associates in May (His second) and I have two more years to go to be an elementary school teacher.

All through this time our hearts have been torn between Mercy Ships and Japan... going back and forth between them.  Until now.  God has very clearly closed the door on us going to the ship for awhole number of reasons.  They include Flash's special education needs, SG's psychological and medicine needs, the ship's current decision not to assign family cabins to teachers (i.e. current policy is that you must be single or married without children to serve on the ship as a teacher), and the ships refusal to allow a FATHER to be the primary caregiver (That last one offends me, as anyone who knows Knight in Shining Armor knows that he is more than capable of that role).   Strangely enough, NONE of this bother's me, it actually excites me to see God closing a door and bringing us full circle back where we started... Japan.

There are currently a few ways we could get back to Japan, but it will most likely be 3 years or more before that happens.  One idea is for me to try to get a teaching position with the DOD school system.  From what I read with the downsizing going on, the market for jobs like this is probably going to be competitive and not easy to come by.  My preferred plan would be to teach for the large Christian school just outside of Tokyo called Christian Academy of Japan.  They pay a reasonable salary and with Knight in Shining Armor's military retirement we could pay our living expenses without having to raise any support.

I hesitate to say what our current plan is, because the only thing that seems guaranteed in our life is that God will change it!!  Although I must admit that Japan has always held a special place in our hearts, and I do hope this time God does not close the door we hope to walk through.  But if He does... we are up for whatever new "5 year plan" He has for us. 日本 に帰りたい!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Another Fan Letter to Certain Conservative Politicians

This letter was prompted in response to another blog I read today... it's not an easy read.

A fan letter to certain conservative politicians

Hey out there!  I am an unborn child conceived by rape.  My mother was the victim of a horrible unspeakable crime and now there's me.  She will have to live with her memories and her pain for the rest of her life, and I am a constant reminder of that pain.  I am innocent yet despised.  I don't blame my mom, really, I understand it is all so painful and confusing.  It's hard to separate me and my life from what that evil man did to her.  It's a horrible situation that nothing can ever make right.  BUT, I wish people would stop thinking about it as if I am the cause of her pain or an extension of the evil that was done to her.

I wanted to say thank you for being willing to be unpopular for your convictions about life.   You firmly believe that every life conceived is worthy of protection.  I know many don't agree, but thank you for treating the unborn child as just as valuable and having the same rights to protection and life as the "just born" child. (Nobody would advocate their death for another's crime!)  Thank you for realizing that I am a victim too, and that aborting me can do nothing to undo the evil that was already done to my mother.

Because of your steadfast belief that an unborn child has a right to life you also believe that anybody exercising control over anybody else's body is wrong.  A man controlling a woman through rape... EVIL and WRONG.  A woman exerting control over the life of a baby through abortion... ALSO WRONG.  I wish people could see that even though I am the result of an evil act, my life is not evil.  Getting rid of me will not undo the evil done to her or make it better.  

I know in your humanity and imperfection you say things that get taken out of context, twisted or misconstrued for political purposes.  I know sometimes the words come out completely wrong much to the glee of some who disagree with your stance on life and would like to paint you a demon who hates women.  But thank you for putting yourself out there.  You see that my mom was a victim but so am I.   The difference is that very very few people dare to be a voice for me, it's not popular and it takes guts.  Thank you from the bottom of my beating heart.

The victim without a voice

Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Fingerprints of God- Part 2

Before I left for the ER Friday night one of my "mommy friends" had posted a link about "intussusception" thinking perhaps that might be what was going on with Nathan.  This was what the ER Dr. was looking for when he ordered the X-ray.  Being very good friends with Dr. Google myself, I had already looked that up along with appendicitis and noticed that Nathan had several symptoms that fit with either diagnosis, and some symptoms that did not fit with either diagnosis.

After getting to bed around 2:15am I was hoping we would get some good rest, but at 6:45 Nathan woke up moaning and crying.  He wasn't really awake so I let him be and he fell back asleep only to wake up 30 minutes later moaning and crying some more.  This went on off and on until around 8:45 when he woke up for the final time.  He was clearly not feeling well at all.  I prayed about what to do. Should I fill the prescription for Miralax (when my son has never been constipated a day in his life) and the antibiotic for his UTI (even though UTI's are highly uncommon in boys and we had no confirmation at all that this was what Nathan had).  I knew our Ped Clinic was open on Saturday mornings and I told God that if I should take Nathan in to please have OUR ped be at the clinic that day.  I call and tell Angie a member of their awesome office staff the short version of what happened and ask who is working that morning.  DR. CHENEY, our doctor, "happened" to be the one out of many possibilities who was working that morning.  We were there within 10 minutes and the only ones in the clinic.

After explaining to Dr. Cheney what happened and reviewing the ER records (which they already had the ER fax over before I got there... did I mention they are awesome?) he decided to try to get some urine to see if Nathan did indeed have an infection.  While Nathan was clearly not feeling well he wasn't terribly uncomfortable at this point UNTIL we tried to get him to pee.  This caused him to scream and cry out in extreme pain.  After they tested the urine they said it was negative for infection but that Nathan was pretty dehydrated.  He thought perhaps he was having bladder spasms from dehydration.  (kind of grasping at straws at this point).  He recommended we give Nathan the Miralax and lots of water to try to dilute his urine and keep his bladder from having spasms.  He then lays him down on the table to examine his belly.  As soon as Dr. Cheney touched Nathan's mid to right side he let out a blood curdling scream.  At this point I can see Dr. Cheney start to get concerned and he says he is going to give the Children's Hospital a call and send us down there to get him checked out for appendicitis.

Dr. Cheney steps out to call the hospital and comes back and says that the Drs. at Children's think that Nathan is most likely too young to have appendicitis (Not impossible but very rare).  More likely was the intussusception that we had wondered about earlier.

On the way to Children's I took the following video of Nathan because I just had a feeling we would get there and he would be acting all fine again like the night before!  He had been crying like this for about 15 minutes without stopping at all.


We get to Children's and explain Nathan's symptoms to the PA.  She says it sounds exactly like intussesception, including the part where Nathan would fall asleep from exhaustion between the waves of pain.  She does a test for blood in his stool (negative) and orders and ultrasound (also negative).  At this point Nathan is running a 102 fever and is not having any more times of feeling good.  He is lethargic and just laying pefectly still on the bed and holding his belly like this...

Since the tests for intussusception were negative and Nathan is clearly very sick, they decide to do a CT scan.  They do not like to do this on little ones unless they have to because of the amount of radiation it exposes them to.  They come in give Nathan an IV along with some pain medication and off we go to get the CT.  He was PERFECT for the CT and never fussed or cried or anything.  Now we just have to wait some more.  The radiologist report came back and the PA brought it in to show us.  It was really quite ridiculous with words like "possible swelling" and it was clear that the radiologist did not want to go out on a limb and make the call that it was for sure an acute appendix.  So they needed to discuss with a surgeon to see if they would operate or admit him to observe what would happen over the next 24 hours.  The surgeon came in to see Nathan and he made it pretty clear that he doubted it was appendicitis.  He must have said "possible" appendicitis several times so that I was clear it was not confirmed.  As soon as he touched Nathan's right side Nathan cried out in pain.  "Hmmmm.... possibly" he muttered under his breath as he walked out saying he was going to check the CT scan.  Minutes later he was back and said that it was fairly certain that it was Nathan's appendix.  "Possible" had gone to "Most Probable".  Within 2 hours he was wheeled into surgery and his sick little appendix was removed from his body via laparoscopic surgery.

Throughout the whole process so many family members and friends were praying for Nathan.  Praying for the Drs. to have wisdom to discover what was going on.  Appendicitis in children under 4 is so difficult to diagnose.  In fact it is often so difficult that as many as 80% of these young kids' appendixes rupture before they are properly diagnosed.  I was even reminded of the book I had read last summer Heaven is for Real which is the story of a little boy that nearly died because his appendicitis was not properly diagnosed.  Unlike this little guy's story, Nathan was only misdiagnosed for a short time.  Due to God's nudging and guiding I did not feel comfortable with that diagnosis and pursued a second opinion.  Our pediatrician was on the ball and sent us to Children's hospital and within four hours they had a correct diagnosis.  Within six hours Nathan was out of surgery and on his way to recovery.

16 hours post surgery Nathan was eating bacon
The child life specialist came in and she could not believe that Nathan had only had surgery the evening before.  She has seen lots of appy kids, but she was truly amazed that he was up and playing and walking around the floor and acting as if he was just fine and dandy. 

19 hours post surgery we were home with a healthy, smiling, giggly boy!

The fingerprints of God are all over Nathan's story.   Every decision made by every doctor was in response to prayers for them to have wisdom.  Not many kids as young as Nathan get appendicitis. The PA at Children's told us the youngest she had seen so far was a 3.5 year old.  It is most common in your teens and twenties.  Even though it is a rare thing in a two year old our wonderful pediatrician and the awesome staff at Children's caught it in record time and we know why.  Gloria a Dios... All glory to our God.

The Fingerprints of God- PART 1

Yet another story of God's faithfulness to the Van Clan...

For He will give His angels orders concerning you,
to protect you in all your ways. Psalm 91:11

While sitting in Church last Sunday, something minor happened that wasn't a big deal but it was clearly God ordained.  Ya know, one of those things where you just go, "that was really cool how you planned out that little detail just for me, Lord"  In that moment I realized how many of the little (and BIG things God does in my life that I tend to forget).  I thought to myself, maybe I should start a new blog where I write down all the little "fingerprints" of God in my life.  I haven't started that blog yet, but I do have another story to tell.  A story that clearly has God's fingerprints all over it.

It all started Tuesday night.  About an hour after putting Nathan into bed he woke up. Screaming.  He was holding his belly and crying uncontrollably.  This had never happened before so I did what I always do when something weird is happening with one of my kids.  I posted to my two mommy boards on Facebook.  One group is mommies of kids born the same month as Nikki (we have been friends for 6+ years now) and the other group is mommies of kids born the same month as Nathan. Between the 50 or so moms we have lots of kids and lots of experience with strange physical ailments.  Between us we have made many a correct diagnosis!

Tuesday 8:44pm
"Nathan woke up an hour after going to bed screaming in pain. He is holding his tummy and crying inconsolably. Not sure what is going on but if he doesn't stop crying soon we are going to take him in. He's breaking my heart!"

Because Nikki had felt a little off that day with some diarrhea, we thought he either had gas or maybe some cramping related to the same thing Nikki had.  The consensus of "The Mommies" seemed to be that maybe Nathan had gas, and we had some chit chat about how painful gas pains can be, although I don't know personally as I have never had any... ever!

The next morning "The Mommies" asked about Nathan and I wrote the following...

Wednesday 9:32am
"This morning he has suddenly stopped and grabbed his tummy two times and said "ow ow ow" and he wants me to kiss it and pray for him. I think he is milking it cuz he is fine in between times. LOL!

Wednesday afternoon he said this to me and I posted it because of how cute it was and we all had some chit chat about the cute things our kids say. (Hey don't judge... that's what these mommy boards are all about!) 

Wednesday 4:13pm 
Nathan just said as clear as day "My tummy is bothering me". BOTHERING?! Where does he get these things?! LOL! (He's pooping now)

He still was only mentioning his tummy in passing, not really complaining or appearing to be in pain.  From Wednesday afternoon until Friday evening Nathan seemed to be fine, with no indication of anything wrong.

Friday, Mark and I had gone out to dinner and a movie and arrived back home around 7:30pm.  As we were pulling in the driveway, Jordan calls and says he thinks Nathan is running a fever.  When I get inside, Nathan is pretty subdued, but doesn't really feel hot to me.  We take him to the potty and get him ready for bed.  He complains about his tummy a little bit but goes to bed just fine.  About 30 minutes later he wakes up screaming INCONSOLABLY again.  More gas pains?  Seems strange.  We ask Jordan and he says Nathan went poo while we were gone.  Nathan cries HARD for a good 15 minutes and we finally distract him with Diego.  We watch that and put him back in bed.  I post the following to "The Mommies"...

Friday 9:18 
Nathan was complaining about his tummy again before he went to bed. Woke up a few minutes after going to sleep screaming and crying inconsolably again. He's never had gas issues before so I don't know why they would start now. Took about 15 minutes to stop crying and then he just whimpered and is still sort of whimpering now, more than half an hour later. He seems pretty okay during the day but will occasionally stop and hold his tummy and say ow. Then go right back to playing. He is eating and pooping fine. Does this sound like gas or something I should look into further?
About 15 minutes later he was screaming in agony again.  I told Mark I was taking him in, but by the time we got him in the car he stopped crying.  I told Mark I would just put him in bed beside me and watch him for a bit.  I wasn't crazy about taking him to the ER at 10pm on a Friday night.  He lay in bed beside me and was acting fine.  He played with the dog and was chatting.  All of a sudden he rolled over put his knees under him and started to get really uncomfortable.  I decided enough is enough, we need to go to the ER.  When I got to the ER, got checked in and was waiting Nathan looked like this...

He wasn't exactly happy, but he wasn't screaming with pain anymore either.  By the time we made it to our room saw the Dr. and had a tummy x-ray he was acting like this...

I sent Mark some goofy pictures and was complaining to "The Mommies" about how kids always act sick until they get to the ER and then they are perfectly fine! We joked that I should tell Nathan to act sicker please!

But then it all changed.  Nathan had to go potty and I took him and immediately the whining and moaning started.  By the time he was done going potty he would not bear weight on his feet.  I carried him back to his room and just moments after the above video I snapped this picture and sent it to Mark...

 It was like someone had "flipped a switch" on my happy silly boy.  It was about 11:30pm and we were waiting for the dr. to read the tummy x-ray.  Nathan dozed off and after a few minutes woke up writhing and screaming in pain.  I called the Dr. in and explained that this was triggered by taking Nathan to the bathroom a little while ago.  This caused the Dr. to think that perhaps Nathan had a bladder infection.  It didn't quite fit in my mind because the screaming came well after he had gone to the bathroom.  He ordered them to cath Nathan to get some urine.  While we were waiting he sent the tech in with an anti-spasmodic for Nathan.  It had no effect at all and Nathan continued screaming "OW OW OW!!!!" uncontrollably for about 15 minutes when they sent someone else in with some hydrocodone.  They let that begin to work and then they come in to use the catheter to test his urine for the UTI.  They cath him all the while he is screaming in pain.  This was the hardest moment of all for me, because not only did they hurt my baby, they didn't even get a single drop of urine to test. :-(

The Dr. came in and tells me that he doesn't want to put Nathan through any more poking, prodding or tests and he is just going to give me some miralax for constipation (even though I told him Nathan goes EVERY day and it is loose) and an antibiotic for a UTI (Even though he had no urine to test to confirm it).  None of this sat well with me, and as we went home to go to bed I was still pondering what to do.  It was 2:15 when Nathan and I got into bed, and I did not know that this was just the beginning.  (Stay tuned for PART 2)