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!