Sunday, November 2, 2014

Once an Orphan...

Today is Orphan Sunday.  Many people don't even know that such a day exists, but it does, and it's today.  A day when many churches across the nation focus in on the orphan crisis and do what they can to draw attention to it and encourage people to participate in some way, to bring about its end.  To find fathers for the fatherless.  To bring hope to the hopeless.  To help.  To do.  Something.

Four years ago, I heard Pastor Alex Himaya preach a sermon about adoption.  It was life-changing.  God used his words to push our family out of our comfort zone and into the unpredictable, challenging, rewarding world of adoption.  Through a series of events (that you can go back and read about on this blog), we adopted a sibling set of three in February, 2011.  Everything changed, and yet, it doesn't seem like anything changed.  It's strange.  It is what was supposed to be and it's hard to imagine life any other way at all.

When we brought Bennet, Kaleb and Kali home, they were 11 and 6 (twins).  Bennet spoke a tiny bit of English and the twins could count to 10 and do their ABCs, kind of.  We had to enforce a "no Amharic" (their original language) rule so that they would stop talking to each other (about us) and talk TO us instead.  They learned English very quickly and they've, pretty much, never stopped talking since they got here.  ha!  To say they have adjusted well is an understatement...these three are INCREDIBLY adjusted.  They are loving, kind, crazy, selfish, silly, respectful, sassy, smart, giving, disobedient, repentant, sweet...all of that stuff that makes somebody, "normal".  They're great people.

Bennet is 14 now and is in the 8th grade.  For those of you who know us and know Bennet, you know that she did 8th grade last year in Franklin.  One of the big decisions we made in conjunction with the big decision to move to California, was to have Bennet repeat 8th grade.  This decision was one that she was hesitant with, but in her gut, she knew it was a good move.  And, it's been a GREAT decision.  She is LOVING her new school, Village Christian Academy, and is making all A's & B's, with very little help from us.  We're impressed.  She is a hard worker who is rising to the challenge of the more difficult assignments.  Her biggest challenge is English/Grammar, which makes total sense since she's only been speaking English for a little over three years.  Her favorite thing is soccer and she has big plans to go to Europe and play there as soon as she can.  Dreaming big.  I love that.  Bennet is making good friends at school and even went to her first slumber party last night, which she loved.

Bennet's adoption story is filled with many painful parts...things that would give her plenty of reasons to be bitter or sad...but, she is neither.  She is grateful to have had parents in Africa who loved her, dearly...her memories of them (especially her Daddy) are good and strong.  She is one hundred percent certain that she will see them again in heaven, and, because of that, she is able to be happy! Really, truly happy.  Content.  

When I saw the very first video of Kaleb that the orphanage sent us, I said to Brian, "Uh oh, he has a bit of a temper".  Every time he'd lose his temper in the video, they'd do an edit.  There were a lot of edits.  ha!!   We dealt with his temper the first few weeks he was home with us.  We rarely see it now, but when we do, he is quick to turn it around and make things right.  Kaleb is FUNNY and his laugh is one of my favorite things in the world.  I met with his teacher this week at school and she told me that he's one of her very best of the class and that she really enjoys talking to him...called him "mature" and "highly intelligent".  Made this momma pretty darn happy.  He is testing above grade level and excelling in school, which is a huge blessing because he didn't like school at all last year...the move to this new school came at a perfect time for him.  Yay!  But, the number one thing for Kaleb is soccer.  He loves it.   He wants to play professional soccer one day, and I believe he can.  And will.

Kali is just the sweetest thing on the's a rare thing to have an issue of any kind with her.  I talked to her teacher last week and the teacher welled up with tears talking about Kali....couldn't say enough about how special she is...precious.  Kali loves school and is testing at grade level.  She gives everything 100%, and, although she isn't at the top of the class as far as grades go, her great attitude is off the charts, and I care a whole lot more about that.  She has, easily, made friends here, but she sure does miss the ones she left behind in Tennessee.  That's been harder for her than anyone else.  Kali loves "One Direction" and, loudly, sings all their songs, although we are still working on her singing on pitch.  ha!!   She loves to read and pink is still her favorite color.  To recap, Kali is pure joy.

Cooper and Gatlin say they don't really remember a time when we didn't have Bennet, Kaleb and Kali.  I mean, they do remember, but it doesn't feel like it was "us" before them.  That makes my heart so happy.  Even though they argue and get on each others' nerves, they would still choose them, if we were choosing again.  That's a big deal.

So, here we are on Orphan Sunday.  Here's what I'd say to you -- if you've ever wanted to adopt, go for it.  It's not an easy road, in fact, the process is hard, and it takes a long time these days.  But, it's worth it.  If you don't see yourself, actually, bringing an orphan into your family, then please consider donating to someone else who is in the process.  It is such an expensive process and families really need financial support.  Our adoption cost close to $60,000 and it was only because of our dear friends and family members helping us out that we were able to raise those funds.  One of the organizations that our family loves and donates to is Ordinary Hero.  Kelly Putty, the founder, met our kids before we did.  She took pictures of them and sent them to us and it meant the world to us.  We believe in the work that Ordinary Hero does and if you're looking for a place to donate, we highly recommend OH.  Here's the website link to check out.

And, lastly, if you aren't called to adopt, or you can't give financially, will you please pray.  Pray for the precious orphans out there.  Way too many.  Pray for the families in the adoption process.  And, pray for those who have found forever families but are struggling to adjust.  Our kids had an "easy" time adjusting, but that is not always the case and for some it is very difficult.  I believe that it was prayers for Bennet, Kaleb and Kali, by people who didn't even know them by name, that made all the difference in their world, both in Africa as they were surviving the death of their parents, and here in the US, as they were adjusting to their new ones.  Prayer matters.

Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans.  Isaiah 1:17

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