Wednesday, May 28, 2014


School is almost completely done for our kids!!!!!! Did you "hear" the excitement in that statement?

I do enjoy homeschooling. However.....this year has been very difficult. The school year began with us once again undergoing the adoption process this time on steroids. The expedited process tested me more than ever before. Absolutely every step of the process to adopt Selah was met with adversity. I practically had our congressman's office numbers on my speed dial. I knew that Satan was working so hard to discourage and interfere. As always God's way was victorious. I promise to blog more about that soon but I digress!

One of the sweetest surprising moments (with Selah) happened on Mother's Day. We had gone home to be with my parents as my dad lost his business to a fire. We spent the afternoon outside enjoying the sun and taking photos. Selah ran up to me and said, "You take picture?" So I did!
Can you see the absolute joy in Selah's entire countenance? Not to mention the fact that she wrapped her arms around me! I only wish the glare in my glasses was not so bad. She is stunningly beautiful!  

Jeremy was chatting with Selah's social worker in China the other day. She asked for some photos of Selah in everyday situations. Jeremy sent her a few and her response was as follows: "She is much happier in America than she was here in China." It came on a day that we really needed to hear. We have many great days but this process has been difficult.

Her grieving takes many forms:
*disappearance (usually to her room between the two beds)
*inappropriate laughter
*loud walking, almost stomping
*passive disrespect (not unlike my other kids)
*eye rolling (also not unlike our other children)
*mumbling in Cantonese (She owns that one!)

These are the times that challenge us as parents. We have to throw out everything we have learned raising our other kids. It is imperative that we always remember what this sweet girl has lost. She does not know how to process her new life nor does she have the "tools" to process her new circumstances in an "acceptable" way. But she is learning. And she definitely tries to change.

So while we learn a lot about each other, the above photo represents where we most often are these days. She has come so far in just a few short months. 

In one of her school papers she is learning about adjectives. Selah's job was to correctly write an original sentence for the adjective shown in the picture. I was so touched when I saw what Selah wrote.
We are still working on the second sentence.  However, for only being here for less than five months.........WOW!!!! Her English is amazing! We have spoken to her social worker and was told she was at the top of her class of 1,000 students. She is very intelligent. 

As we headed out the door for church last week I grabbed Selah's Bible and noticed something written in the flyleaf.
I imagine that she heard this somewhere. It had been a bit of a difficult day. Then the Lord allowed me to see this. I know it was His reminder to me of all the hurt and utter rejection our daughter has experienced in her life. 

She has never experienced the kind of love she is receiving from our family. This was exactly what I needed to see. I needed to just realize how her life has been shaken to her very core. I have children who love me unconditionally. I have extended family that love unconditionally. I have a husband. I have a mom and a dad who love me and our family. I have Jeremy's family that love me like their own flesh and blood. I have God! Selah has never experienced any of these things. My sweet friend, Cindy, called me and we were chatting about adoption and she reminded me that Selah has nothing to offer. No one has cared enough for this girl to invest in her life. No one ever invested love. The only love she has ever known or experienced is demonstrated to her or others around her. 

Selah has added such a sweetness to our home. She is becoming such a great big sister to Mariah. I love seeing her interact with Mariah. It is obvious that she had almost no interaction with little ones. She is finally allowing herself to enjoy being part of a somewhat large family. 

I thank God every single day that we signed her paperwork three days before she was lost in the welfare system in China. Ultimately her future would be grim. She would likely not live for many more years. 

As we celebrated Memorial Day yesterday she was confused. We watched the PBS Memorial Day Celebration on television. I watched her as she was soaking it all in. She was a bit taken back by the number of headstones shown at Arlington. She was so very quiet. 

Memorial Day was also a great day for us though. My sister and her family stopped by on their way home from a wedding in Virginia. We had a great cookout! The kids played badmitten! We found a sport that Selah is excited about! She just lit up! We are so happy to see her more often being a kid!

We had the closing ceremony for our church's AWANA program this past Wednesday. I want to take a moment to brag on my kiddos. Rebecca was one of only two kids this year to earn the Timothy Award. She has finished every single book in AWANA from Cubbies to TNT. She not only finished those books but she has worked on the extra sections as well.
Ben is right on track to earn this same award. It took him until the very end of the year but he finished his book! I am so proud of them. This is not an easy feat!
Mariah also finished her first AWANA year. She loved her Puggles class and most definitely Ms. Opal (April) and Ms. Bebbie (Debbie). She gets so excited every single Wednesday. Thank you both for making her feel so special. 
Thank you to all of our AWANA workers for investing in the children at Fellowship!

I also want to share that our two older boys have had much joy in helping in AWANA. Jeremy and I are passionate about our kids serving. This was Kyle's third year, Micah's first year, and Jeremy's 15th year! I have stepped away for a few years as I am trying to minister first to my family and be a mom to Selah. 
We are an incredibly blessed family! As absolutely difficult as the worst days are, it is unbelievably fantastic!

God has poured out his love on us and has supernaturally given us above and beyond what we need or deserve. 

As Mariah and I were using sidewalk chalk in the driveway I just wanted to let others know this one thing.......
But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.         Joshua 24:15

Tuesday, May 20, 2014


Some things happen when you least expect. 

Some things just cannot be explained no matter how hard you try to understand.

Last Saturday a couple of our kids went into the church early with Jeremy to help with the Single Mom's Oil Changes that our church was sponsoring. I got the rest of the kids ready and we headed in for the soccer game where we would meet Jeremy since he was coaching the game.

Kyle and Micah stayed over at the church parking lot where they helped with vacuuming the cars. It was a rainy Saturday. It was cool here too.

I brought the girls home and fixed lunch while the boys finished up at the church with Jeremy. 

I received this text from my mom's phone via my cousin, Danielle......
                                        "Daddy's garage is on fire."

My heart immediately began pounding.

I gasped and scared my girls.

Then tears filled my eyes.

I texted back and asked if Dad was okay. He was safe, thank goodness.

But the magnitude of this fire goes back farther than many realize.

My dad started working on cars when he was 16 years old. He loves working on cars. He worked at a local Sunoco gas station in one of the garage bays while also pumping gas for customers as they drove up to the pump. He did all of this while working full-time at Allegheny Ludlum steel mill. He was a tunnel furnace operator for many years. 

Dad and Mom built that garage 30 years ago. I remember so many details of that construction. I had just broken my arm and my dad was pouring the footer for the foundation. He built a barn style garage with a large bay housing a hydrolic lift for working on cars. The 2-story structure served as the hub for dad's business of painting cars, repairing cars, and for our graduation parties. 

In 2004 the mill offered my dad early retirement (after 35 years of service). Dad and Mom decided to add on to the garage. Another bay was added, Dad's office and bathroom were moved, and they added an entire storage area for his Kubota tractor. The footprint for his garage is 30 X 48. It was pretty big.

Dad spends many hours in that garage. He is often out up and out in his garage around 8am and rarely comes in before 10pm. Mom even struggles to get him inside to eat supper. And to think he is retired!

My parents are some of the hardest working people I have ever known. When dad is not in his garage he is probably outside splitting wood for one of their two coal furnaces (one for the house and the other for his garage). 

In the 30 years of my dad having his own business he has never one time advertised. There has never been a single sign to even let the community know it was a business. Yet somehow every single day my dad had more cars lining the driveway than he thinks he could ever complete. 

My dad serviced the cars for the moms at the local crisis pregnancy center. He rarely closed the shop. When he had to close the shop after my mom's surgery and extended hospital stay...........his customers didn't know what to do. They were in shock that the garage was closed. 

Dad closed his garage rarely but when he did it was always for my mom or us children. With each birth of a grandchild Dad closed his garage. Even when several of those babies were born sick requiring hospitalization, Dad closed up shop. 

When our daughter, Rebecca, was born a little more than six weeks early my dad and mom came to Morgantown, WV to be with us. There was much concern as her lungs were not mature. Customers were calling his cell phone and were confused as to what they were supposed to do. Dad simply told them he would be home when he could. But his granddaughter had a long road ahead and he was prepared to be there.

Dad closed up his shop when he decided to travel to China to meet his youngest granddaughter. His customers did not know what to do. 

So when his garage went up in flames it was devastating!
These photos were taken before any emergency workers arrived. If you look closely you can see my dad and Bill running into the garage in an attempt to save anything. Even though the 911 operator was clear and told my mom that no one was to go back in the garage.
Dad was using his tractor to move some of the debris and the fireman was kind enough to put a helmet on Dad's head in case the structure fell.
This next photo is hard for me to look at. If you look closely you can see my sister consoling my dad with her hand on his back. He is just watching his dreams vanish. His shoulders are slumped. It brings tears to my eyes every time I see this.
Here are a few more of the day.

Jeremy and I made a decision and quickly packed a bag for each of us and loaded up in two cars and drove home to Pennsylvania. It was the right thing to do. 

Jeremy drove his car because he needed to come back for church/work on Sunday. He was there at my parents for just a couple of hours and drove back. I stayed. 

All five of us kids came home. Again, it was the right thing to do. Nothing like an impromptu family reunion!

It was a long night. We stayed up with my parents until 4am. It seemed surreal. But plans were being made to rebuild. Here is what the garage looked like on Sunday.
Sunday also happened to be Mother's Day. It was a beautiful day! We spent the afternoon taking photos with our mom.
Five grandchildren were missing from this photo. But we still enjoyed our time. Personally, I missed my Ben (who rode back with Jeremy) and my hubby.

The community has been so kind to my parents. Food has been brought. A local church youth group came to help with the clean-up. Help has been offered. So many have just stopped by to see how my parents are doing.

While we all know how blessed my parents are that no one was seriously injured it still is a mountain to climb. 

Through it all my parents are handling this with the utmost integrity. 

We praise the Lord that no lives were lost. It was just stuff.

I am blessed to have my family! We are all blessed! 

Please keep them in prayer as we help them rebuild.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Easter and April

Our usual busy lives remain.......busy! 

This month two of our kids began soccer through our church's Upward ministry. Somehow Jeremy became an assistant coach. The kids love it! Honestly, it is pretty neat to see them out on the field. Rebecca and Benji have been loving the competition. 

Could you ask for any more perfect weather?
Enjoying the sun.
More action......
Then this sweetie stood on the sideline and very loudly said, "Hi, Boo!" to her brother across the field.
It was a fun opening day. Both of the kids scored goals and love it!

Ben had an Easter program at church and was one of the disciples. He is in the bottom left of the photo.
This was Selah's first Easter. Our hearts are so burdened for her to hear and understand the Gospel. Jeremy and I took every opportunity to help Selah understand. 

Our neighbor's little boy had his own Easter egg hunt for the kids.
Selah was confused but played along!
She thought that candy inside the eggs was pretty cool.
Then we colored eggs! This is always a favorite.
Everyone joining in.
Even Mariah!

I ended up staying home with Mariah from church on Easter Sunday. She had been running a temperature.

Easter baskets are very basic. Chocolate bunny, lots of chocolate, and one very small gift.
We headed to Pittsburgh for two doctor's appointments. Kids are doing great.

On April 25th we had an appointment for Selah to take her oath of citizenship. It is a little confusing but she became a citizen when we landed in LA. However, because she was 14 the US requires these kids to take this oath in order to close out their case. This "ceremony" also allowed our daughter to receive her Certificate of Citizenship. 

After the 1 hour and 20 minute drive we were told we may have driven down there for nothing. Selah's middle name was spelled incorrectly. Interestingly her appointment letter had her first name as "Sarah" but the CoC had her middle name spelled wrong. For now we will endure. One day we will possibly laugh at this. 

The oath!
I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.[1]

The coveted Certificate of Citizenship! We could not keep this but it served well for photos!
Family photo after we got scolded by another worker.
Our worker said the photos were fine and encouraged us to take several more.

I had this post written last week but it still needed some work. To be completely honest, it is tough. We can only prove to be trustworthy in time because Selah simply does not believe we can be trusted. It is so hard for her. 

She is beginning to understand our cultural expectations. She is learning how to be a sister. She is beginning to learn how to allow Jeremy and me to love her for who she is. She is beginning to realize we are not bad people as she was told. Selah is learning how to be a big sister to Mariah. This will all take time. 

We do ask that you pray for us. There is not one minute that we doubt where God has led us. We do ask for prayer. We have medical concerns that weigh heavily on us. 

It is beautiful to watch Selah blossom. She is finally showing a little affection to me in front of the other kids. She has a really tough time showing her affection. So when others ask her how it is here in our family she truly cannot answer that question. I think she believes the veil will be lifted and everything she previously thought would come to be true. But we are exactly what we are. 

We were blessed to be completely surprised this past Friday. We attended a graduation party for our dear Spanish teacher for the kids. As we were leaving the ladies at the party offered balloons to Mariah and Jeremy noticed Selah was interested. They offered her balloons as well. She ran out the doors and was running through the parking lot like a small child. That gave both of us perspective. We had no idea! It was probably the very first time she ever had balloons. We saw a glimpse of the childhood that was stolen from her.

I am wrapping up some of our schooling but my days will still be quite busy. Benjamin is starting vision therapy on Monday. We will be at the optometrist's office daily for 4 weeks (Monday-Friday). Then twice weekly for the next 6 weeks. 

I am looking forward to a little break from learning about American history and Botany. I love it but I need a break.