Thursday, November 29, 2012

Weaknesses. Glaringly Evident.

Went to bed last night greatly discouraged because my weaknesses were on display practically all day yesterday as I parented my kids and kept failing miserably. Woke up this morning to read this…

Thanking God for this path of adoption and parenting, where the scenery is exhausting yet FULL of rich spiritual treasures that I would not learn without my weaknesses and frailty being exposed. God didn't lead us to adopt because we are pros at handling and responding to every situation - but rather to once again turn our wordly wisdom upside down. In God's Kingdom, weakness = strength for it is the stomping grounds where we learn to rely on HIM alone. An easier, less difficult path, would cause me to miss out on the high of watching God's character and power be revealed in my life like I have never known before!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Can't Stop the Lefty!

JJ had a career high 14 points tonight in his team’s 52-10 win over Waukee’s Sports Plex West house team. I managed to catch two of his baskets on video. :) Can’t stop the lefty! Whooop whoop!!

[This one started with JJ stealing the ball but I began taping too late.] Sullivan drives up to the top of the key, and SWOOSH, nothin’ but net baby!!!!!!!

Pictures From Thanksgiving Break

Oh how I LOVED having all of the kiddos home over Thanksgiving break from school!

The atmosphere felt so much more balanced with the boys home! :) Not to mention that the girls love to play with their brothers! I did not hear one of my kids say “I’m bored” even once! There was always someone to play with, something to giggle about, or a goofy new game to come up with.

We are still enjoying the game “Zingo!” that the kids got for Christmas last year!

They can play it by themselves and usually get a couple of games in a day. For those of you adopting, this game is a fun way to teach your English learners a few words. Jennifer loves this game and is so proud that she knows how to say all the pictures in English now. :)
One of the things that we always do the day before Thanksgiving is decorate our house for Christmas. We head to a tournament in KC straight after Thanksgiving Day so I like to have “Christmas up” for when we get back. A tradition that we started with the kids a few years ago was that we got them each a small tree for their rooms, and every year they get to pick out an ornament from the store to put on their tree. This year the kids were more into it then they have ever been, asking me days in advance about when they would get to put up their trees! Here are the yearly comparisons from this year to last year…

And here are this year’s ornament picks…

Once again, I love how the kids’ personalities come through in their picks! This year Jayla was on a mission to find a ‘rainbow puppy’ ornament as she is really into rainbows right now. Currently Jennifer tags along with what Jayla likes, so she picked out something similar. [Justice was this way too until his personality really started to blossom about a year after he was home – until then he followed whatever JJ and Daddy liked]. Jasara went straight for the gingerbread man as soon as she saw it on the rack. She held it up to her chest and did not change her mind the whole time that we looked at ornaments! JJ picked the boxer hog because he is really into fighting/wrestling right now. And Justice’s pick really surprised me, until it clicked in my mind that he is our gift giver! He LOVES to give gifts, so how appropriate that he picked out the presents. :)
I wish I would have videotaped Jennifer and Jasara helping to decorate their tree for the first time. They were jumping up and down - so thrilled - and it was hilarious watching how proud Jasara was to put her gingerbread man on her tree! She kept going back into the room to look at the tree and touch her ornament after it was up. I did get our big tree up in the living room as well, but it wasn’t without a few snuggling intermissions!

A few more pictures and vids from the past few days…
Sing it girl!

Jasara is the first of Daddy’s girls to take a prolonged interest in the basketball!

Here’s a video clip of JJ reading to me among some backround chaos…

And here is a real quick clip of Jayla and Jennifer being goofy – Jayla had found out that Jennifer doesn’t like snakes!

Jayla has taught Jennifer how to do the ‘pretend read’ technique…here is a video of Jennifer trying it out which is hard to do when you have a limited English vocabulary!

Cool cats.

Serious studs.

I’ve started giving Jasara a front row seat during my cooking, and this has really helped her episodes of crying/worrying/whining for food when I am preparing meals. :) It keeps her mind busy watching me chop and stir and mix.

We got to do some swimming at the hotel this weekend….it’s so fun to get to do this during winter time! Daddy got a good ‘ol African sponge bath from Jasara…

Jennifer got some swimming lessons…

And JJ got dunked!

Who would have thought? :)

Monday, November 19, 2012

My Cup Runneth Over

From the fullness of His grace we have all received one blessing after another.
~ John 1:16 ~

Saturday, November 17, 2012

3 Week Update Continued

Jennifer is saying a TON of English phrases and sentences now. One night last week I kept track of everything she said in a 5 minute time span and this is what I wrote down:

“Mommy, Jayla is where?”…“Mommy, Jasara is doing it!”…“Mommy, please tear it for me.”…“Mommy, I will do it for her.”… “Mommy, our pajamas!”… “Mommy, please, my goggles?”… “Mommy, this is cold.”…. “Ooooooh, wow!”…. “Mommy, see her hair.”… “Please, I would like some.”… “Mommy, Jasara is calling you.”… “Daddy, open your eyes!”… “Jayla, please open it for me.”

We can quite easily communicate now, and in the same way that Justice did, Jennifer is absorbing English so quickly that it blows my mind. It helps that I constantly repeat the same things over and over each day…. “It’s time to go!” “Let’s get our shoes on.” “We will do that tomorrow.” “Do you need help?” “It’s time to take a bath.” “Good job!!” Jennifer quickly learned the words see, stop, thank you, shoes, eat, hungry, school, help, play, cold, hot, etc because we say them so many times in a day! Of course, Jennifer’s English acquisition is helping her and Jayla’s relationship a TON as you can imagine! They can connect, communicate, and play much smoother now! They are much more in tune with each other! In the first week the girls were home, I had also noticed that Jennifer would speak words/phrases to Jasara in their Twi language numerous times per day. Now she talks to Jasara fully in English, and she also calls her Jasara 100% of the time now instead of Flo-Flo. :)  Of course we would love it if Jennifer could maintain some of her Ghanaian language skills as well…..hopefully she will mirror what Justice did and still be able to understand the language, even if she chooses not to speak it.

After Jennifer’s first two weeks home, Jake and I began talking about enrolling her in the dance class that Jayla does on Tuesday evenings. Jake wanted to see how Jennifer would respond to a structured class setting where she would need to obey a teacher/instructor. He also thought it would be good to begin helping her with balance, motor skills, and fine tune movements. I don’t really know how to describe Jennifer’s movements other than being kind of stiff – she really lacks limber, flexibility, and balance. Jennifer also LOVES to dance….she’s always doing her little African dances, stomps and songs around the house. I really felt that if she went with us to Jayla’s class and wasn’t allowed to participate that she would feel left out and wonder why she couldn’t also have the opportunity. Our dance studio allows one week of free participation for new students to try the class at no cost, so we went for it! And oh my, did Jennifer LOVE IT! She concentrated the entire time, obeyed the instructor every step of the way, and caught on so quickly to how the class is run. It was so fun, because all of her classmates were nice to her right away – wanted to know her name, gave her lots of smiles, and didn’t miss a beat with her being added into the class. We also had informed her instructor ahead of time that she was just learning English, so the class helpers really made sure to stick by Jennifer and help her to understand what they were doing by getting her in position and using a lot of gestures. Here are a few snapshots I got of her in action!

Someone else wanted to join the class too and was absolutely GLUED to the doorway watching her big sisters and trying to imitate their every move!!!!!!!!

After the class Jennifer said to me with a big smile, “Oh Mommy, I like dance!” And she said ‘like’ really loud and emphasized. She was sooooo excited about the class, and talked about it the whole way home. Her favorite part was the tap. The neat thing was that another little girl also happened to be trying the class out on this night, and we are now matched as partners with her to receive the 2 for 1 discount (Jayla was already matched with someone else at the beginning of the season). It was such a little blessing that God had that planned! Not only that, but it wasn’t yet too late to sign Jennifer up for the spring recital, so we were able to get her measurements in and she’ll be able to participate in it! Yay!

I also wanted to include a little update on how Jayla is doing. After about a week and a half of the girls being home we started to see spurts of Jayla’s personality and ‘old self’ start to come back. Oh what a relief that was to my mommy heart! She was starting to giggle and showing her goofy episodes and non-stop talking again in little pieces. It wasn’t fully back, but we were catching glimpses of her relaxing and settling into the new normal.

With that, Jayla still continues to get ‘triggered’ by something that will upset her and set her off into instant tears. This continues to happen over ‘small’ things that would have never bothered her before. Recently God has reiterated to me that I need to get to the ‘heart of the matter’ and then it will give me understanding of how to instruct and help Jayla.

One such incident happened at church when we came to pick Jayla and Jennifer up from their class. I didn’t quite catch everything that played out, but out of the corner of my eye I saw the teacher ask Jennifer to go and hang her artwork up on the wall. And then Jayla got all weird about hanging hers up and ended up bursting into uncontrollable tears. The middle of what happened was foggy and Jake and I weren’t quite sure what went wrong, but Jayla sobbed all the way to the car and then the entire drive home. Once we got home I pulled Jayla aside by herself and asked her what she was so upset about. It took some convincing on my part to get her to share what was going on, but eventually she said, “I messed up on my artwork.” Immediately, with the Holy Spirit’s discernment I felt the Lord say that Jayla was comparing her artwork to Jennifer’s in those moments of hanging them on display. And in comparison, Jayla felt that hers wasn’t as good as Jennifer’s. It’s kind of a strange thing when the Holy Spirit tells you something. I never would have figured this out on my own! But then I started putting all the pieces together! I’ve noticed Jayla starting to display these sort of “I’m not good enough” emotions a lot lately. My mind floated to the day we tried on her Halloween costume. After we were done Jayla pointed to the picture of the girl on the costume package and said, “I wish I looked like that girl. I like her hair and her face.” My mommy heart literally DROPPED. To hear your 4 year old daughter say something like this for the first time is sort of a harsh shake into reality. It is *crazy* how the devil can already be planting these little lies into the minds of our children…..she’s only 4! “I’m not pretty enough.” “I wish I looked like her.” In addition, I’ve also noticed Jayla saying “cutting” remarks to Jennifer. At first I was addressing these remarks by pointing out to Jayla that she was being mean (and for this I can be thankful that Jennifer doesn’t fully understand what Jayla is saying or her tone because she would be hurt by it if she knew fully). But now, I again understand that I am only addressing the surface when I tell Jayla not to be mean. Jayla is saying these cutting remarks in order to put Jennifer down and promote herself. In bringing these two new girls into our family and into our home, Jayla now perceives everything as a comparison. She first questions whether she is good enough – in looks, in artwork, in writing letters, in playing games, in every part of our day really – and then that spurs her to remark that she wants what someone else has, or it results in her speaking a putdown. I’m sure some will be taken aback by my bluntness, but this is sin. Sin displayed in a 4 year old.

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” ~ Exodus 20:17 ~

Man must not envy other people’s possessions, their abilities, their looks, or whatever they may have. Satan had said, “I will be like the Most High,” coveting God’s position. To covet, to be greedy or jealous, is sin and totally unacceptable to the Lord. It’s the path that Satan followed (excerpt from ‘The Stranger on the Road to Emmaus’ page 132).

Once again, inviting others into our home and into our family has exposed our yuck and our sin. Not just Jayla. All of us. Like a mirror, we really do not see our sin until something or someone exposes it. For Jayla, it’s been having her two sisters join our family. But you know what? Although this is hard, and sad, and rough at times, I would MUCH RATHER us be dealing with Jayla’s sin now at the age of 4 than the age of 14. This is not to say that she won’t struggle with any of this again later in life. But it is to say that the earlier we can lead her to finding her identity, confidence, and internal character in Christ, then the more solid of a foundation we will have once we hit the emotional teenage girl years.

You will never really enjoy other people, you will never have stable emotions, you will never lead a life of Godly contentment, you will never conquer jealousy and love others as you should until you thank God for making you the way He did. ~ Reverend James Hufstetler ~

I of course cannot physically reach in and form my child’s heart to learn these spiritual understandings that I so desperately want her to know. But I firmly believe that it is my job as her mom to continue to show and teach Jayla how far-reaching and complete God’s love is for her. That He created every piece of her intricately and thoughtfully for a specific purpose. And I must trust that God will use this all to work in her heart, to give her clarity of who He has created her to be, and to show her that charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised (Proverbs 31:30).

As I blogged about in a previous post, I’ve started reading through and rehearsing God’s promises with Jayla and Jennifer BEFORE we start our day – right after we get dressed. For a few days there I was actually dreading morning time, because I knew one of them would get triggered by something (stubbing their toe, not wanting to put on lotion, the jeans they wanted to wear weren’t clean, didn’t like what I served for breakfast) which would bring their deeper hurts to the surface and start a sobbing episode. God is definitely equipping me to deal with their deeper hurts - I’m not saying I want to avoid the times He gives me to shepherd them - but I just prefer to not start every day with them sobbing! So, we’ve started reading the ‘Jesus Calling for Kids’ devotional each morning, and can I just say that since two days after we started this we have had NO morning time crying, grieving, or pouting episodes since. Trust me, I’ve been keeping track. Not one. Setting our minds and hearts on God’s promises and perspectives is completely life changing. It gives us hope and purpose to even face the day. Our hearts just seem to lift, and our momentary troubles literally fade. I can see it on my girls’ faces!

One other thing that Jake and I have been observing in Jayla is that she has become quite bossy with Jennifer and Jasara...literally trying to order their every move. Don’t do this, do that. Not that way. You can’t do that. No No No. As I’ve observed Jayla day in and day out, I’ve realized that she’s lost some control over her environment, her routine, her life – whatever control she had to begin with. Her bossiness is a way to grasp for that control back. I haven’t the slightest idea of where she gets this from. Ahem. :)  But this all came to the surface for me last weekend when Jayla had gotten upset about something minor and was trying to boss Jennifer around after the incident. I was in the other room and I heard Jake say, “Jayla you’ve got to lighten up honey. Have fun! You can’t get upset about every little thing. At this rate you are going to end up a crabby old lady someday that never comes out of her room.”  Jake isn't one to smooth-talk the issue at hand if you couldn't tell!

Although Jake wasn’t talking to me, God used his counsel to Jayla and impressed it on my own heart. I also have a tendency to get so serious, tisk-task, and controlling that I forget to smile, breathe and unscrunch my brows. I don’t allow people grace. I would rather them be orderly, do things my way, and act ship-shape. I have to constantly watch myself to not nag on my children about every little thing, because it really is my nature to do so. What Jake was seeing in Jayla was a product of me. In those moments Jayla needed to be reminded to lighten up, and so did I. The next day we prayed and invited the joy of the Lord to reign in our home and family. Not that our joy in the Lord was lost, but by our own doing it had definitely been smothered by the perceived weight of burdens, to-do lists, light and momentary troubles, and graspings for regaining control. Over the past few days, Jennifer had even been saying to me, “Mommy, laugh!” when she was doing something goofy and I would see her but not even flinch. Who forgets to laugh? The one with a preoccupied, on edge, and too-serious mind. Me! We prayed specifically over Romans 15:13 that the God of hope would fill us with all joy and peace as we trusted in Him, and that we would BUBBLE OVER with JOY by the power of the Holy Spirit. We invited the Lord to give us giggle attacks, and goofiness, and the sillies. For less seriousness, and more light-heartedness. For smiles and radiant faces that reflect the work that the Lord is doing in our lives. My hope and prayer is that when and if you ever encounter our family, you will see us embracing the chaos with light hearts and joy spilling over.  Oh Lord, let it be! 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Home 3 Weeks!

Today marks exactly 3 weeks since we brought our girls home! I so want to keep track of all the little and big things going on around here! Over the next few days I will try to journal out some updates…

Let me start with an update on Jasara. This little lady is intent on observing and then imitating anyone, anything, and whatever is said! As I watch her, I see SO MANY of her movements as being the product of her observing the women in Ghana day in and day out. I see it in how she wrings out the wash cloth in the bath tub, and then how she places the wash cloth flat over her hand, dabs on soap and scrubs the water Barbie. I see it in how she will randomly break out into pretend play - holding an imaginary jar of lotion in one hand, taking her index finger and dipping it into the imaginary lotion, dabbing the imaginary lotion on Jake’s face in different spots, and then taking both her hands and rubbing the imaginary lotion in! I see it in how she takes a plastic knife and cuts her food up ever so intricately as she surely observed Ghanaian women do as they prepared food. I see it in the way she dances with her hands and fingers held flat and cutting through the air in different movements, right along with the beat. She and Jennifer will randomly break out into Ghanaian songs and Jasara will clap a very structured beat while they both sing out the words – Jasara repeating each lyric after Jennifer. I see it in how when she gets mad at Jennifer or Jayla she will stand there literally hollering at them, shaking her finger with raised eyebrows and pursed lips, just like you would picture an old African lady rebuking a child. Then she will chase after them to pretend like she is going to hit them so they run away. It is HILARIOUS and the girls eventually burst out into giggles because of her antics! (They really do this in Ghana. Adults usually have a stick which they wave in the air to chase misbehaving children away). It is amazing to me how much culture is already engrained in a little 2 year old! I caught a small peek of this 'culture' on video as she was preparing some food in her play kitchen the other day. I do not do any of the things you see her doing in this video – like tapping the bottom of the spice jar, and taste-testing with the spoon. She learned all of this by watching the women in Ghana….

I SO hope to get more of these culture moments on video....even this video only shows such a small peek of what we see in Jasara every day.  These glimpses of culture coming through her personality literally happen ‘in the moment’ and it’s hard to get to my camera before the moment is over. I like to just sit and watch it all unfold. :)

Another piece of culture - both the girls prefer to carry items on their heads. I caught the tail end of Jasara doing this the other morning as she was playing in the bathroom…

Jasara is also EXTREMELY interactive! She constantly needs human interaction! I was telling a few people this last week that there is no possible way that you could not form a healthy attachment to this child! She forces the attachment! If she’s trying to get your attention she will literally come over to you and tilt her face in front of yours so that you give her eye contact! If I counted, I would reach over 75 ‘Ma’s!’ a day easily. She is constantly hollering for me, “Ma!!!!” until I answer – ‘yes?’ and then she’ll gabber something and giggle. She herself initiates games of peek-a-boo, and playing with our faces, and tipping upside down in our arms, and her ever favorite game of repeating sounds and words. She even starts tickling games by saying “tickle-tickle-tickle” and clawing her fingers in the air and waiting for us to come tickle her! She loves to sit on our laps and make imaginary food and pretend to feed us or bathe us. Last night at dance class she gave me at least a 10 minute 'bath' with an ice pack as the other moms watched and giggled.  She didn't miss one spot - not even my arm pits!  When we are riding in the car and I am in the passenger seat she will say “Ma!” about every 10 seconds. She just wants me to turn around and look at her and then she’ll maybe do a dance move in her car seat, start playing peek-a-boo, or show me pages of a book. Sometimes she just wants me to reach back and hold her hand. :)  Here’s a clip of some of our fun in the car:

Over the last week we have seen Jasara smile and laugh and giggle more than ever! In the first few weeks she was always angry about something, sad, or serious with a few bursts of play mixed in between. Now she is just a constant bubble of excitement and interaction! In the first 2 weeks for nap and bed time I would have to lay with Jasara until she fell asleep. Just heading into her room for nap and bed time would make her start crying. When I laid her down she would roll around and around trying to get comfortable, pull at her eyelashes, scratch the covers, rub her eyes, and even cover her mouth to try and muffle her cry –I’ve wondered if maybe she was taught to do this in the orphanage setting. She and Jennifer also constantly wipe their tears off the second they roll onto their cheeks. As I’ve written about before, Jasara likes to have her index finger rubbed as it calms and soothes her for whatever reason. If I even tried to leave the room while she was still awake she would get so agitated and would start scream-crying. Just this week I noticed her kind of ‘dinking around’ when I would lay her down. She had become happy and peaceful before going to sleep – not upset. So, I decided it was time to leave the room while she was still awake to see if she would fall asleep on her own……and she did and has been doing so for 1 week now! In addition, I’m also able to read her a book before bed and she LOVES it! She lays perfectly still and listens and focuses on the pictures. Just 3 weeks ago she had no idea what to do when I put a book in front of her – now she really enjoys it!

I’ve also seen Jasara start sucking her thumb!!!!! This usually is not allowed in Ghana because of hygiene reasons. In fact, there is a very strict rule in Ghana that you eat with your right hand and – to be blunt – you wipe with your left. Your left hand is not allowed to touch your food (but can hold silverware that touches it) or really go anywhere close to your mouth since you use it in the bathroom process. This helps to prevent the spread of disease and sickness (hand soap is not prevalent in Ghana). Well, Jasara has been sucking her left thumb. The first time I saw her do this it was when we were in the car on our way to a tournament. She was getting ready to fall asleep and I saw her start sucking on her fingers – then she went soley to her thumb. As I was looking back at her, I could tell that she was testing what my response would be. Her eyes asked me, “Is this ok?” I once observed a little girl at an orphanage get rebuked and her hand slapped when she tried to pick up some food with her left hand. Ghanaians take this very seriously, so I am positive that Jasara has not been allowed to do this before – and I am sure she has tried. I also know this is why she was so particular when she first came home about having a knife and a spoon/fork when she ate. She would put one utensil in each hand and use the knife to scoop food onto the fork/spoon so that her hands never touched the food. This is a 2 year old!!!!! At first I would give her a plastic knife (cause she would freak out if she didn’t have a knife) but over the past few weeks I’ve replaced the knife with a fork.

As far as food goes, the girls are doing pretty well with the adjustment. Jasara will try just about anything, Jennifer is much pickier. Both the girls LOVE yogurt and yogurt drinks, which I find so interesting because Justice was not keen on anything dairy when he first came! They are also quickly leaving the days of rice behind. I served it on their plate for dinner one night and neither of them TOUCHED it. They still love and ask for chicken prepared in any way or form: chicken nuggets, rotisserie, grilled, fried, breaded – you name it they’ll eat it. They also still love tilapia which I just get in the freezer section and bake. Hot dogs are a huge hit as they have something similar in Ghana which they call ‘sausage’. Jennifer also loves mac n’ cheese. For dinner they’ve eaten roast, scalloped potatoes and ham, and cavatini. Jennifer didn’t like chili which was surprising to me since many Ghanaian soups are tomato based. Jasara ate it. This week they’ll get to try beef and noodles, tacos and spaghetti. Jennifer also doesn’t like pizza yet at all. Jasara eats it. :) 

The main lingering thing that we are still seeing from the girls’ past is this underlying fear that they are not going to get food. At lunchtime I usually head into the kitchen to start preparing food about 25 minutes before we need to eat. Like clock-work, each time Jasara follows me into the kitchen and starts crying for food the minute I start preparing it. As she watches me open the fridge, cook on the stove, and pull things out of the pantry she knows that food is coming and the fear starts creeping in – that she won’t get any, that I won’t know that she’s hungry, etc. If Jake is home he’ll usually hold her on his lap to distract her during food preparation. But oftentimes I just have to let her cry and roll around on the kitchen floor as I keep telling her, “Mommy knows you’re hungry. You will get to eat.” Every once in awhile I cave in and give her a piece of bread or a yogurt drink to pacify her until the meal is ready. But I only do that randomly because I don’t want to comfort her fear with food. But I do want her to learn that she can consistently trust us to identify and meet her physical needs.

Jennifer also shows this fear. One night we had JJ’s basketball game in Waukee (a good 50 minutes from our house) at 5pm. I brought the girls a cracker snack to eat at the game, since 5:30pm is our normal dinner time and I knew we wouldn’t be getting back home for dinner until at least 6:45pm. They ate the snack and did fine at the game. Then, on the way home Jennifer said, “Mommy, my stomach….” At first I thought maybe she was going to be sick. Justice’s stomach often got upset when he first came home just because of adjusting to the new foods and different types of protein. But when I asked her if she was going to throw up (and yes, I did the gesture) she shook her head no. Then the tears started. They were these sort of whining/begging tears……not necessarily tears of pain, but more so I could tell that she wanted me to know that she was hungry. I realized that since the girls had come into our family, for the most part I have fed them meals ahead of their hunger. What she was feeling was a hungry tummy that she likely hadn’t felt since she’d been in Ghana. And she wanted us all to know it. She wailed and wailed in the car, the entire 45 minutes home, in a way that I can only describe as an irritable, stubborn whine. As a mom, I’ve learned to recognize the different cries of my children – and this was not one of being sad but of being mad! The boys were asking what was wrong and why girls cry so much! Jasara also does a sympathy cry for Jennifer when she cries, so Jasara was making her best effort to also match Jennifer’s cry which was slightly humorous and yet sad at the same time. You could tell this exact scene had played out many times before. I told Jennifer that we would eat dinner once we got home, but this made her cry all the louder. So, I decided to shut up. But somewhere in that mix I got mad! I got mad because we were all hungry, but the rest of us weren’t pouting about it. And, when we got home I blew it. I was not sympathetic nor compassionate towards Jennifer. I was frustrated at what on the surface showed itself as self-centerdness. I was annoyed that we all had to listen to her cry for 45 minutes in the car after repeatedly telling her that she was going to get food once we got home (she understands enough English by now to know what ‘get home and eat’ meant). My heart chose to vent at her rather than shepherd her.

After dinner we did our family Bible study over Numbers 13-14. The theme of the study was seeing how the Israelites grew discouraged and chose to complain instead of trust God. When I picked out the Bible study I was not at all thinking about what had played out before dinner. That was over and done with in my mind. But as we dug into the Word of God, I realized that in my response to Jennifer I had given her ‘dry crumbs’ rather than the ‘bread of life’. In her cycle of worry-to-fear-to-mistrust-to-complaining I had only addressed her complaining...“Stop crying. You will eat.”…“Please stop crying, we are all hungry. The rest of us do not want to hear you pout.” It hit me during Bible study that God had given us the entire hunger scenario so that I would lead Jennifer to Him. To teach her to trust in Him. That He would provide. It was so simple. I have prayed numerous times that Jennifer and Jasara would come to know the Lord. And here God was giving me a chance to teach Jennifer about His character and I didn’t see it because I was so consumed with being annoyed. I could have stopped and prayed with Jennifer right there in the car. We could have pulled over, and I could have prayed and told God that we had faith in Him to provide food for us. That He saw Jennifer’s need and we trusted He would meet it. Oh how that would have instructed her heart!!!! How that would have showed her that her mommy cared! Oh how that would have helped my own heart attitude – instead of trying (and failing) on my own to reach her, I could have spoken truth to my child and then trusted God to do the work in her heart that needed to be done. I could have relied on Him instead of myself.  But I missed my opportunity. Instead, I did what felt better – tried to force an end to the outward evidence of a worrying heart - the crying.  And it didn't work anyways - only made things uglier.  Ugh. I really blew it.

Well, after our Bible study, needless to say my heart was totally convicted. I asked Jennifer to forgive me for my response to her earlier, and I told her that the next time she is hungry, we will simply trust God that He will give her food (and I resolve to lead her in how to trust). The great thing about God, is that when you don’t learn something the first time around, He will give you a second crack at it….so I know we will get another situation like this again….maybe a few more. Now I just need to choose to respond by the Spirit's leading (harder, more time consuming) than by what my flesh wants to do (easier, feels better, more immediate relief). Oh the tug of war!

More updating to come later this week………..