Wednesday, April 22, 2015

She's coming, she's coming! But who she is may surprise you!

You all know we are in the process of waiting to adopt a baby girl domestically.  So far there has been significant movement to confirm to us that there are birth moms out there, but they aren't the mother of our daughter....yet.  So just to keep from leading you on, NO, we have not been matched with a birth mom at this time!  It could come at any day, any time, but THE phone call hasn't come to us.  It's God's perfect timing and perfect plan, and we are OK with that.

Eastern Europe
We do, however, have some special plans while we wait to see who the daughter God has in store for us is.  The doors have opened for us to host an orphan from Eastern Europe for five weeks this summer!  I can not share publicly online which country she is from and what her name is, so will simply call her our "L".  She is 10 years old, soon to be 11 this summer!  We have had our application to host approved, and are now awaiting further information about her file to be sent to us.  We are hosting with the organization New Horizons For Children.  They are a Christian based hosting group, not an adoption agency. Their goal is for each orphan to not only be exposed to the love of God through sharing and living out the Gospel to him or her for 5 weeks, but also to give the orphan hope in this life.  Many of the orphans hosted find their forever families while they are in the U.S.!  It is our prayer that we can not only lay down the foundation to teach her about Jesus, but also be instrumental in her finding a forever family in our area.

"The only thing God asks of me every day is to show up and bring my little bit of willingness"- Lisa TerKeurst

That is where YOU come in!  Kris and I want the word to spread like wildfire that we have a beautiful, precious girl coming to stay with us this summer.  If you are a part of our church or local community, we need YOU to help us love on her!  We will need help collecting either gently used or new clothes and shoes for her to wear while here and bring back to her country. Ask us about a general size (we have to guess based on her age and the fact that she's likely smaller than the average American girl).  She will need friends around her age to make her feel welcome when she participates in church activities.  She will need patience as she doesn't know much English.  Our family would love to have over any family who potentially would like to adopt her, whether we know them or they were told about "L" by word of mouth.  I will be able to share her picture when she arrives, but we have to follow specific guidelines for her privacy and the protection of the hosting program.  Please do NOT share her name, country, or photo on ANY social media outlet.  Never, ever, use the word or allude to adoption when in her presence (this is a strict rule we have promised to abide by).  Never give her a gift unless Kris and I know about it ahead of time and give permission (we also have been given strict guidelines regarding what she can bring back with her).
This is a new concept to us, and another step of faith.  We know it will be heartbreaking to put her back on the plane in early August.  We know our kids will get attached to a "big sister" for the summer, especially Anna Faith.  We know there could be a lot of stress if she comes with baggage, which all orphans have.  We know we may have a newborn baby girl come home while she's here (potentially) and our home will be turned upside down!  However, God doesn't call us to be comfortable.  He doesn't call us to play it safe and never take risks at loving and giving.  If we don't take this risk, there is a 60% chance "L" will fall prey into the sex trafficking industry when she ages out of the Eastern Europe foster/orphan system.  There is a 15% chance she will commit suicide within 2 years of aging out as well.  Just one summer of being exposed to love, stability, and family can completely transform her life, even if she isn't adopted later.  It will potentially give her hope and a future.

"You love as well as you are willing to be inconvenienced." Ann Voskamp

Please pray with us for "L".  Pray for her heart as she will undergo lots of changes, culture shock, and challenges.  Pray for our family as we prepare our hearts to take her in.  We would love to talk to anyone who is interested in hosting and point you in the right direction.  Most hosting programs for this summer have deadlines in May, so if you feel God is leading you to do this, you must act quickly!  The website for New Horizons is http://nhfc.org
I will close with a quote I was given at an Adoptive Mom's Retreat I attended last weekend (it was awesome by the way!):

 "Peace is submission to authority, not resignation from activity....  God is working in the waiting".

 I love this.  We are waiting for so much God has in store for us, but that doesn't mean we have to stare at an empty pack n' play in our bedroom.  We need to continue to see God working.  I am confident He is already, and will work in and through "L's" life and ours.  It's going to be a crazy, wild ride, but simply amazing!


Monday, April 20, 2015

10 benefits of big bouquets: how having lots of siblings is actually a GOOD thing (contrary to popular opinion)


What if I were to say this about a large bouquet of a variety of sizes and colors of flowers on my table:
-There is no space for them in that spot
-They are squished together
-This isn't fair to the first couple flowers that were in the vase
-They are ugly because they look chaotic
-There shouldn't have been as many picked so they could have been spread out to other people
-It was irresponsible of the picker to put that many flowers in there.  What was she thinking?

Sound a little ridiculous?
This is similar to criticism I hear about having lots of
children.

While getting a physical for our current home study, I was examined by a physician I never had met before.  She was from the Philippines and came from a family of 9 children.  When I started to tell her our family's story, she beamed with excitement that we are a growing family.  Since families of more than 2 or possibly 3 children are often criticized in our society, having the four we have has already brought on stereotypical responses reflective of a judgmental attitude toward families like ours.  Many people on the outside believe we have our brood of kids due to either irresponsibly choosing to or out of poor moral choices.  I'm not going to quote the negative comments of people we know, but here are just a few of the comments I've received in public:

"I would never have thought you have four kids.  You don't....."look" like you have four kids"
So what am I supposed to look like?  A woman in sloppy clothes or pajamas walking around in Walmart at 11:00 p.m. with a glazed over look on my face?

"They are all yours? Wow...."  (The expression is made with furrowed eye brows)

Then there's the all-time favorite that Kris was asked at Walmart by an old friend "Wow, four!  How much do you get each month for them?"

So I asked this doctor, who came from a very large family abroad, what she thought of having so many siblings growing up.
"Did you feel you were at a disadvantage?", I asked her.
"Absolutely not!  I loved having such a large family!"  was her reply.
 "Did you feel you weren't getting the attention from your parents that you needed since they had to split all their time between you?"
She laughed.  "Of course not.  I felt loved by my parents and never felt like I missed out of a good relationship with them".  She added "Having a large family helped my character a lot!"
 Our conversation ended with a clean bill of health for me and encouraged hearts.

With all the bad rap we receive from either people we know, strangers we meet, or society in general, I've come up with a list of 10 ways children of large families are benefited  by having multiple siblings.  I'm in no way coming down on small families.  Please don't think I'm trying to relay the message that if you have one or two kids that they can't be as much like Jesus as kids in larger families.  I just want to bring to light that having multiple children is a good thing when a Christian parent wants to see them grow in their character and as an end result, in the Lord.  Please understand I do not condone irresponsible parenting in our society. 

1. First of all, children in large families learn sacrifice.  There have been countless times my older kids have had to give up going to birthday parties, special church events, invites to others' homes, and trips to have fun altogether because of a younger siblings' needs.  They give up space for their things, and have to share time with their Mom and Dad.  And they certainly have missed out on being spoiled like many children in small families!  They can either choose to become bitter about having younger siblings, or they can recognize that they must yield their interests for the interests of others.  As they grow older, this trait will be evident in their walk with God in so many aspects, as well as in their marriage and parenting.  The more sacrifices due to multiple siblings, the more the building of this character.  Are they missing out on a great life of fun and adventure, socialization and building of friendships?  Maybe a little, but it is more than made up by their life lesson that life doesn't revolve around them.  They must lay down their opportunities and desires for the needs of others.

2. My kids learn about grace from each other.  A whole LOT of grace!  Imagine my five year old's reaction to his sister sneaking into his play space and knocking down his lincoln log castle by accident.   How about a sabotaged artwork of an 8 year old big brother made more "pretty" with magic marker scribbles by a toddler sibling?  Then there are interuptions in sleep, school work, loud behavior and grumpy attitudes while concentrating on something important, temper tantrums over dinner, potty training accidents on a brother's bed, I could go on and on!  Our kids learn what grace is: giving someone something they don't deserve.  They want to smack their siblings over the head sometimes (and they succeed often) but they are also learning what grace is all about.

3.  My kids learn about leadership.  If I let my kids outside to play and no one takes the lead in an activity, there is chaos.  Usually my oldest will come up with rules, structure, and instructions on what they will do in their creative world they enter in the backyard, but other times a younger sibling wants to initiate an activity and the others follow.  I love watching them develop this skill, as they will need it as they grow into adulthood.  Without followers, you can't be a leader, and what better followers to learn from than your siblings?  They are learning how to not be dictators, how to compromise for the greater interest of others, how to be structured in their play, and how to make peace when things get hairy.  This will take them a long way in life and in Christian leadership in their adult lives.

4.  My kids learn how to be mediators.  I have two middle kids right now, soon to be three.  Middle children are typically the mediators of the family, but that isn't always the case.  They want to advocate for each other when they are in trouble, or vouch for the other when we need "witnesses" to a punishable offense.  They stand up for the other when they need someone to defend them.  It is precious to see my older children already develop this trait they acquired from having siblings by using it outside our family.  They are already finding ways to help orphans, pray for the lost, and identify those who are in need.  It is a beautiful thing as a parent to watch.

5.  My kids learn compassion.  The greatest life lesson for my children in compassion has been learned through their little sister.  It is not uncommon for a brother to run to hold her hand when she's afraid, pick her up when she's tired, calm her down when she's crying, or fix her a cup of milk when she's hungry.  This compassion is now bleeding out into the world around them.  They hear about persecuted Christians and immediately are burdened to pray and take action.  They have huge hearts for orphans and will not hesitate to take any opportunity given to pray, give and go to help them.  Seeing needs in their own siblings and reaching out to them has fostered this compassion in a big way.

6.  My kids learn humility.  Pride is a problem for all people, but it is an especially difficult struggle for the strong willed child who never wants to yield their right to be right and have their way.  When a sibling has to lay down their rights and opinions so they can serve their brother or sister, it is breaking that spirit of entitlement in their hearts.  They learn that being second and their sibling being first is actually not so bad of a place to be.  Carrying a humble heart into a marriage relationship, into parenting, and into ministry as a Christian is immensely important.  God is using their siblings to help teach them these tough lessons on humility development early.

7.  My kids learn perseverance.  Imagine a big lego project continually being torn apart by a little sister.  How about a little brother having to try over and over to ride a bike like his big brothers, or swim, or climb a tree so he can be "big" like them?  My children don't want to miss out on opportunities to achieve, so they have learned to work at it until they do.  A lot of this is due to having siblings, and this character trait will carry them far in life.

8.  My kids learn how to encourage others.  For years my little boys would pick on each other, aggravate the snot out of their siblings, and laugh at their mistakes.  However, as they grow, they are learning to encourage.  I thoroughly enjoy overhearing an older brother lavish compliments on his younger brother or sister when they start to read a book, recite their math facts fluidly, or make a beautiful work of art.  The encouragement builds up that sibling twice as quickly than if it had come from me, because while they know Mommy will encourage frequently, when it comes from a big brother it must be REALLY a big accomplishment.  What greater training ground to learn encouragement than with your family at a young age?  This spirit of lifting up others will benefit them greatly as they use it in other relationships in their lives.

9. My kids learn to work as a team.  As they grow, I see my kids pick up on each other's strengths.  When they do chores, they know who accomplishes what task the best and most efficiently and work together to get it done.  They each know how to compliment each other and get along when needed.
"Team Dixon" works as a unit, and that bond grows stronger as we grow in numbers.  When they go places where there are other children, they typically like to stick together.  This isn't from not wanting to be social, but they consider their siblings their best friends and comrades.  That spirit of teamwork will be a tool they can use in the adult world to accomplish much.

10.  My kids learn self-reliance.  As we've added more children to our family, it has become a huge task for me to care for my kids like a typical mom would.  At a young age my kids have learned to fix their own breakfast and lunch, feed their younger siblings, help with potty training, and help with multiple jobs in the home that a typical child their age from a small family wouldn't normally do.  At the age of seven, my oldest was thrown into changing his sister's diaper once.  He actually thought it was great!  Having lots of siblings doesn't increase the burden on my kids, it teaches them self-reliance so they can feel needed and valuable to our family.  Without each one of them, certain things would not get done during the day.  This gives them a sense of belonging in our family and teaches them to be depended on.





Many families have little bouquets.  They are pretty, neat, and tidy.  However, placing flowers in a big bouquet doesn't detriment them.  They still blossom, they still can be individually appreciated, and they actually are able to lean on and support each other.  They should be seen as a beautiful thing.  The bigger my bouquet gets, the more I notice that beauty is constantly growing in each flower God places in it.  I hope that by reading this post, others can understand just a little glimpse of what a blessing and advantage multiple flowers have when they are placed together!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

The More Kids, The More Sanctification: 10 flaw indicators in motherhood that point me to Christ


The more children I have, the more I realize my need for Christ-likeness.  I don't necessarily mean "I'm so desperate for some of God's peace because my kids are driving me crazy" type of need, but an understanding of my sinful human nature and how the only way I can improve my character is by striving to be more like my Savior.  With every child we add to our family I discover more about myself that needs to change.  Each one has a different trigger that stretches me and makes me want to implode with anger, react with spite, and show my ugly sinful self in all its nastiness.  It's as if God has so many rough edges He's trying to smooth out of my heart that He keeps giving me more kids and pushing me in more ways to change my character to be more like His.
Many of you can relate with similar scenarios of days that drive us to our knees, either physically or figuratively, to a greater realization of our need to be more like Jesus.  If you don't understand because you either never had children or are still single, let me enlighten you on common moments in my home.

-Screaming, wailing and gnashing of teeth over having to do a sheet of 25 arithmetic problems, 5 days a week
Girl drama.  
-Shoving, hair pulling and teasing/jeering from the back of the minivan as we go down the road.  If that's not occurring, then fighting over an electronic device, complaining about the volume of the electronic device, complaining about the temperature in the vehicle, or whining about a tummy hurting.
-Seeing my favorite flowers out of my flower bed butchered and in the hand of a proud child who wants me to have them.
-discovering muddy footprints on the floor, cabinet doors, and countertop just after cleaning the entire kitchen from top to bottom
-vomit on a Sunday morning.  Don't need to go into detail on that one.
-finding fecal matter on the carpet.  Better yet, in the tub!
-hearing a child scream they can't find their shoes when we are running late.  Or discovering two of the boys didn't comb their hair as we get into the van.  Or noticing someone is wearing a pair of pants two sizes too small and never even realized it until we got to church.
-constant fighting over whose turn it is to pray, recite this week's Bible verse, or lead in the pledges to the flags.
The chaos.  And the nakedness.  Sigh....
-sneaking of candy, then the candy found on the bedroom floor covered in ants.  And it has melted.  Into the carpet.
-arguing and whining over chores.  Every day.
-screaming at the top of their lungs while I am writhing in a headache.




These are just a few of the moments I've had when I can either choose to blow it and react like a heathen or choose sanctification.
I have made a list of 10 ways that my beautiful, gifted little blessings are pointing me to achieve holiness.  With every day I spend with them comes a moment at least one of these reminders comes to light.

At her very special, unforgettable big (happy?) birthday party.  
1: I am impatient.  I find it ironic that many people have told me in public "You are such a patient mom", or "You homeschool?  You must have a lot of patience!".  The answer is No, No, No!  I am constantly aware of my impatience, and though I've come a long way in 9 years since our firstborn came into our lives (bringing with him colic and sleepless nights for the first month), I still need to become more long suffering like our Lord.
"The Lord is slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, forgiving iniquity and transgression." Numbers 14:18a

2: I am selfish.  I want "me" time.  I shush my kids away when reading a great article I see on Facebook.  I never can pull myself out of bed before at least a couple boys have awoken, because I want a few more peaceful moments of rest before facing another day.  Being a mother can tempt me to feel like a martyr (remember the house-arrest post I wrote a few months ago?)  or remind me of a Savior who laid down His life for mine. "God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood- to be received by faith." Romans 3:25a 

3: I am in need of help.  Remember the song "I am a rock.  I am an island?"  That's all me, folks.  I refuse help unless I am in absolute desperation.  Got kids like mine?  You'll find yourself in absolute desperation fairly often.  Jesus came to save those who realize their need of Him, knowing they can't do it on their own.  If I am to strive to be holy, I must realize I need Him, every hour.  "The Lord is the strength of his people, a fortress of salvation for his anointed one." Psalm 28:8

4: I am weak.  I crave sleep, chocolate, and coffee, not necessarily in that order.  I can't tote my 3 1/2 year old around on my hip, cook dinner, and talk on the phone at the same time (though I've attempted it for short periods of time).  I get headaches and have days when I am literally dragging me feet from either emotional or physical exhaustion.  I have limitations and can't carry the world on my shoulders.  Realizing my weaknesses makes His strength more apparent in my life.  "In the day I cried out you answered me, and made me bold with strength in my soul." Psalm 138:3

I can't stand dirt, boogers, and other substances on the french doors.
They get nasty every.single.day.
5: I am never going to be perfect.  No matter how many times I try to implement the latest Christian parenting technique, how many new teaching pointers I get from endless sources, and how many sermons inspire me to godliness, I will never have it all together.  That's the curse of a sin tainted world.  We can try all we want, but we still will mess up.  This points me to grace.  A life lived in constant realization of the grace of God is a life growing in sanctification. "But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness'. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me". 2 Corinthians 12:9

She may look cute, but she was sitting in a puddle of urine when I took this.
6: I need forgiveness.  I hurt my kids, a lot.  They always manage to forgive me, even when I'm too proud to ask for it.  Since I'm around my kids more than any other group of people and show the real me and not a glazed over, well-composed woman who can put on a smile in most any circumstance, they see my ugliest side on a regular basis.  It reminds me of my sinful nature, and points me once again to the one who forgives me every time I fail Him.  "In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace." Ephesians 1:7

7: I don't have all the answers.  No matter how educated I become, how many books I read or degrees I earn, I can't answer every question my children throw at me.  It's humbling, since I've accomplished so much educationally in my past.  This pushes me to the one who is omniscient. "Great is our Lord and mighty in power; His understanding has no limit." Psalm 147:5

Mud.  I HATE mud.
8: I am a control freak.  Drop a wrapper on my floor or yard, I'll smack you upside the head.  Well, only if you're my kid, and it's more like a smacking with a tongue lashing.  If a child wakes up sick on a day I have plans, I fume.  If their behavior warrants a punishment that changes our plans, I want to explode.  I know in my heart when these events happen, I must let go.  The Lord wants control of my days, and I must submit my plans (and even the orderliness of my life) to Him.  "The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes His steps." Proverbs 16:9

9: I am proud.  I expect my children to make me look good when we're in public.  When they disgrace me and Kris by yelling out in church, biting another kid in the nursery, or throwing a tantrum in the hallway, it enrages me to no end.  God desires brokenness in my life, not an attitude of wanting to be praised and admired for my wonderful parenting success.  "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit.  A broken and contrite heart, Oh God, you will not despise." Psalms 51:17

Yes.  Micah said he hated the cave trip.
Only because he had to take a picture with his little brother.
10: I am unecessary.  The mentality of "my kids can't make it a day without me" isn't true.  They don't need me to survive.  Yes, they need a caregiver, and yes, they need someone to point them to Christ, but if I was gone, God would still fulfill his purpose for their lives.   The only person my children can't live without is Christ.  They need Him, and I must remind my children - and myself- that my parenting, educating, shepherding, and discipline aren't what sustains and makes my children thrive.  It is the grace of God, poured through my life, impressing them to also live for Him that molds them and points them to godliness. "Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God." 2 Corinthians 3:5  

The bottom line is we all need more sanctification.  We can't stay satisfied with our present heart condition and spiritual maturity, but we must constantly push toward holiness.  For me, four kids going on five is the toughest and most effective method God is using in my life to remind me of that.
Maybe for you it is a difficult job situation, a rocky marriage, or a relationship with your family that is constantly pushing you to become more like Jesus.  For me, it's my kids.  I can either be grateful or I can push these reminders away and sit in complacency.

Fellow moms, I hope this encourages you.  I hope you can see through the aggravations, exhaustion, and errors, and notice what God is trying to use to make you more like Jesus.  There is a high purpose in all the madness of mommy hood!