One day at a time

Thank you to so many of you who have been faithfully praying for us and for our family.  So much happens in each day it is hard to keep up with on the blog.  We are plodding away day by day doing our very best to walk with Him.

I, Michelle, have begun counseling for me individually as well as setting up some for the bio kids and continuing it for the boys as they progress in their English.  I have allowed some resentment to build up to a point that I have had to reach out for help.  I most likely am suffering with post adoption depression, which is quite similar in many aspects to postpartum depression.  Henri Nouwen, in his amazing little book entitled, Return of the Prodigal Son, states “Joy and resentment cannot coexist.”  He is referring to the elder son’s anger at the party being thrown for his younger brother upon his return from a wayward life.  “This experience of not being able to enter into joy is the experience of a resentful heart. The elder son couldn’t enter into the house and share in his father’s joy. His inner complaint paralyzed him and let the darkness engulf him.”  Until we identify what our resentment is we cannot move past it.  The overload on me and our bio children in every way: emotionally, spiritually, physically and mentally due to bringing these four sons into our lives was causing resentment in me.  My counselor said this was inevitable at some point at the pace we were going.  Something has to give.  I have to acknowledge the pain and hurt of the changes in what our family was and is now becoming in order to move forward.  There isn’t a way to go around it or ignore it.  I must and we must as a family go through it.  Only then can we then begin to truly embrace the daily joys that come from our new family.  It is a mourning of sorts that must take place.  Often just being able to verbalize these feelings and have those emotions acknowledged and even validated is very healing.  When you realize you are not alone in your thoughts and feelings and that this is a common journey for adoptive families it is like a balm to your soul which has felt so much guilt.  But, what I quickly found out is I cannot by will change my feelings or my emotions in these situations. For an entire weekend I cried out to God for help to change my feelings of resentment to love and to not feel anger.  I could not.  It was impossible.  I felt so desperate asking for prayer….from many.

The following quote from Nouwen says it so much better than I can:

“Here, I am faced with own true poverty.  I am totally unable to root out my resentments.  They are so deeply anchored in the soil of my inner self that pulling them out seems like self-destruction. How to weed out these resentments without uprooting the virtues as well? Can the elder son in me come home?  can I be found as the younger son was found? How can I return when I am lost in resentment, when I am caught in jealousy, when I am imprisoned in obedience and duty lived out as slavery?  It is clear that alone, by myself, I cannot find myself.  More daunting than healing myself as the younger son is healing myself as the elder son.  Confronted here with the impossibility of self-redemption, I now understand Jesus’words to Nicodemus: “Do not be surprised when I say, you  must be born from above.” Indeed, something has to happen that I myself cannot cause to happen. I cannot be reborn from below, that is  with my own strength, with my own mind, with my own psychological insights. There is no doubt in my mind about this because I have tried so hard in the past to heal myself from my complaints and failed….and failed….and failed,  until I came to the edge of complete emotional collapse and even physical exhaustion I can only be healed from above, from where God reaches down. What is impossible for me is possible for God. With God, everything is possible. ”

I was at an impasse and just like in the quote above, I did not know how to get through.

He did it. He came. He showed up.  He did a work in my heart.

By Monday night of that weekend, even before my counseling sessions began…..I sought each new son’s forgiveness, which they so readily gave.  I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt He took my resentment and He worked in my heart only what He could have done.  Not that the work is done, there is much work to be done in each of our hearts, but we surely know it will not come from ourselves.  This is God’s work.

I have been instructed to ask and reach out for help.  This is not an easy thing to do. Many say, You asked for it. You chose this. So I am trying to think of ways others can help. I have thought of a few for those that have asked.  Thank you to you, you know who you are.   Part of it is reducing largely our expectations in daily living.  It is also grabbing great big handfuls of grace for ourselves each day.

If you are in a place of seeming impossibility today, count yourself blessed, it is there He shows up, when and how you least expect……when you have nothing to offer Him.  He brings it all…….amazing love….how can it be…that you my Lord, died for me, a wretch, a sinner, you loved me just as I am….

In His Great Grace,

Michelle

Psalm 34:17-19The Message (MSG)

17 Is anyone crying for help? God is listening,
ready to rescue you.

18 If your heart is broken, you’ll find God right there;
if you’re kicked in the gut, he’ll help you catch your breath.

19 Disciples so often get into trouble;
still, God is there every time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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His Mercies

 

“Apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5

Never has this verse been truer for our lives than now. Humbled as never before, we are so  very  desperate for Him.  He is our very breath.  A call from God requires the strength only God can provide.

For me, Michelle, as I approach forty years of having been a Christian, I have never had my faith tried in the way that God’s call to adopt has done.  And I know that it is similar for Ron.

A friend recently asked me how I was.  My response was: broken.  I am broken, like a glass shattered into pieces on the floor.  Emotionally, physically, and spiritually broken.

The intro to the book of Ephesians in the Message Bible states:

“What we know about God and what we do for God have a way of getting broken apart in our lives.  The moment the organic unity of belief and behavior is damaged in any way, we are incapable of living out the full humanity for which we were created.  Paul’s letter to the Ephesians joins together what has been torn apart in our sin-wrecked world.  He begins with an exuberant exploration of what Christians believe about God, and then, like a surgeon skillfully setting a compound fracture, “sets” this belief in God into our behavior before God so that the bones—belief and behavior—knit together and heal. “

The fracture is painful.  The brokenness for me comes from the Christian I have thought I was, and now really seeing the reality of who I am.  Christ revealing my inability to be or do good or to love apart from Him.  To know in my mind to love, to be patient, to be strong, to be all that Christ has called us to be…and yet to actually implement those truths when it is not natural to love is hard.  The brokenness causes a kind of suffering.  Suffering is a universal language.  None are immune from its coming.  Suffering comes in many forms and in many ways.  And yet Christ suffered for us, so why are we surprised to journey down that path?  We are called to suffer with Him.

Phil 1:29, MSG

There’s far more to this life than trusting in Christ. There’s also suffering for him. And the suffering is as much a gift as the trusting

Phil 3:10-11b

I gave up all that inferior stuff so I could know Christ personally, experience his resurrection power, be a partner in his suffering, and go all the way with him to death itself.

 

Nicholas Wolterstorff wrote an amazing little book entitled, Lament for A Son.  His 25 yr. old son died in a mountain climbing accident.  This little book was such a help to me in that it doesn’t try to sugar coat death with cute Christian platitudes.  It reminds us that Death was not God’s original plan.  Death is a result of sin and the fall.  Death is our enemy.  Yes, Christ won the victory over death, we do not grieve as those with no hope, we have the hope of eternity, I am not discounting that.  But, in our acute suffering in situations like this, we must be every so careful of those around us in their loss.  As he states in his book, we must sit beside them on the mourning bench.  He says many write him that have not lost a child , but perhaps a mate, or perhaps they are just walking through a dark time.  And for me this was true.  I lament what our family was before, the changes that come when children from brokenness come to a place of wholeness.  Each one takes something from everyone in this home.  We give of our wholeness to restore their brokenness.  But, we are not very good at it yet.  We have so much to learn.  And so suffering comes in various ways and forms as love is learned.

 

Wolterstorff says, “God is love. That is why he suffers. To love our suffering sinful world is to suffer. God so suffered for the world that he gave up his only Son to suffering. The one who does not see God’s suffering does not see His love.  God is suffering Love.  So suffering is down at the center of things, deep down where the meaning is. Suffering is the meaning of our world.  For love is the meaning. And love suffers. The tears of God are the meaning of history.  But mystery remains. Why isn’t Love-without-suffering the meaning of things? Why is suffering-Love the meaning?  Why does god endure his suffering? Why does he not at once relieve His agony by relieving ours?”

Sometimes we try to fill in the spaces about God that we do know.  We want our theology to be complete so we think we have to have the answer for every question.  But, how can we completely know a God that is all-powerful, all knowing, and always present?  If we knew that, then wouldn’t we be God?

“Love in our world is suffering love. Some do not suffer much, though, for they do not love much.  Suffering is for the loving. If I hadn’t loved him, there wouldn’t be this agony.” Wolterstorff here is referring to his son, in his statement if I hadn’t loved him, there wouldn’t be this agony.  He finishes with, “This said Jesus, is the command of the Holy One:  You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” In commanding us to love, God invites us to suffer.”

In closing this amazing passage from Hebrews 6:14-6 The Message

14-16 Now that we know what we have—Jesus, this great High Priest with ready access to God—let’s not let it slip through our fingers. We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all—all but the sin. So let’s walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help.

 

Update:

The boys love school and have been welcomed with open and loving arms in this community.  We have honestly been blown away by the love and support given by the school, teachers, staff, children and parents here.  Every day they are so happy to go off to school.  This is a great blessing and answer to prayer.

Prayer requests:

Ron and Michelle:  time together, support one another and strength

Luke and Paige:  Wisdom and guidance in future plans and wedding on November 4

Abi:  Intern with Youth at Church this summer is a praise, Attending EMU in fall

Kaiti:  Summer job, Attending EMU in fall, Feel God’s Mercy

Josh:  This guy takes a good share of hardship at this point with his brothers.  Please lift him up.

Anna: Adjusting to brothers, mourning the loss of our old family.

Ally:  Just takes it all in stride, pray for her to have patience with brothers

Ella:  Enjoying more normalcy with boys in school, health restored ,  Salvation

Robenson:  Learning more English, kind to Josh, Salvation, 3 fillings, a daily medicine for 4 months

Samson:  Continue to learn, good health, transfer trust from Robenson to us

Jimmy:  Learning English,  trusting in our love and the love of our family

Ricardo: Trusting in our love and the love of a family, he is learning the most English!

 

Thanks so much for your prayers, meals, support and kindness to our family.

 

 

 

Boys start school on Monday!

While we thought I would homeschool longer, we have found great peace in the decision to have the boys begin school on Monday .  The dynamic of a sibling group poses different issues with language acquisition.  It is also a big load for me to maintain care of Ella, the laundry, meals and home, while still trying to prepare lessons for them.  Thankfully, they play really well, so that has been a real blessing. Robenson visited the middle school on Friday and with the aid of a nice 7th grader had a good day.  Apparently he impressed everyone in humble fashion with his soccer skills.  Samson, Jimmy, and Ricardo were able to meet their teachers and visit their classes yesterday as well.  They are all very excited to begin school. Please be praying for them to be able to learn English, make friends and behave well!

Some interesting lessons are learned each day.  I have been able to take the perspective from a book Abi gave me to read that talks of how we act like orphans with God instead of true sons.  So I see some of the things that our sons do and realize that while they are now adopted into our family, sometimes their actions still do not reflect that.  One issue with them is having a great difficulty admitting they are wrong about anything.  If they say something unkind to a sibling, to have to own up to that “sin” is really difficult for them.  In practicing forgiveness, to get them to actually say “Mwen Regretsa” which is “I am sorry” in Creole is no easy task.  But, the reward is great upon understanding how important telling the truth is, and how important it is to not deny our sin.  This becomes an interesting learning lesson for me with God.  Where am I reluctant to tell the truth with Him?  Where am I not willing to see my sin and not own up to it?  The grace of our Lord is abundant and free, he promises if we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins.  The hard part is owning up to our sin, and often not even seeing ours sins.  The most difficult being sins of omission:  the things we have not done that we should have done.  One day in particular after one of our sons was able to admit his wrong, and say he was sorry, the visible expression on his face was one of relief and peace.  Being a child of God, does not mean not making mistakes, but it does mean trusting in our sonship enough to know we can come to him with any failure or struggle, finding Him ready and willing to forgive us and empower us to have victory.  Furthermore, in this repentance is the true desire to not repeat that sin.

Please continue to pray for our entire family in the adjustments in our home.  Each child in the home needs prayer support for the various changes and dynamics that occur when children are added into a home.  Please pray for Ron and I to have wisdom and guidance in our parenting decisions.  Pray that we will find the right balance of love, discipline and care as we establish healthy boundaries and loving connections.  Pray we would love and exemplify the love of Christ in our actions on a daily basis where no one sees but Him, our audience of One.

Pray we will be graceful with ourselves in this journey.

Love and thanks,

Michelle and family

One Month on the 19th

The nineteenth marks one month that our sons from Haiti have been home.  I will try to give a little summary.

Overall they are doing really well.  Today we vistited Ally’s class and had lunch and recess with her.  We then visited our township library.  They are now asking tonight if they can start school tomorrow! LOL!  I originally thought they would need to be home longer, but for several reasons we will be starting sooner.  First, in talking to other adoptive parents from Haiti , their children have done well and enjoyed school.  Second, they are not learning very much English as they are talking to one another so much.  If they are separated and immersed in English we feel they will progress sooner.  I actually think we are learning more Creole than they are English!  LOL!  Ella said to me one day, “mom , I don’t want to play in the nej today.” Nej is snow in Creole!  We also have the advantage of having the entire summer with Ron and the kids home to continue to bond.  They have been doing well with the schoolwork I can give them, but I just realize that I am limited in knowing what to teach them and how to teach them.  We can tell that they want to be like their siblings and go to school as well.  I realized today when taking them to school that they don’t even realize how many people have been praying for them and rooting for their arrival here!  We have tried to explain this to them.

They have adjusted to eating a variety of foods and love pizza, cereal and pb and j.  So, that helps a ton!  Of course, they still love rice and beans.  And they LOVE eggs!  I can boil one and half dozen eggs for lunch, along with a fruit, sandwich and soup and they eat it all!

Jimmy is our resident comedian keeping us often entertained with his antics.  Samson wants to make sure I know when he made his bed, and did all the things he was asked.  Ricardo is doing the best at learning English because he is willing to repeat things often.  Robenson has been enjoying building lots of lego creations.  They all love legos, playing outside, riding their bikes, and do sit quite well for the school work I have been trying to do with them.

It seems like the things I thought would be hard aren’t hard and the things that I didn’t even know would be hard are.  For me, it is mostly the emotional aspect of the change in dynamics of our family.  Ironically, with a larger family, there are always changing dynamics:  when a child graduates, goes to college, gets married, etc.  I have had to be very graceful with myself, with Ron’s help, to see that I can’t instantly feel super emotional towards each of them in the same way as with our bio children.  I am reading a book entitled, The Post Adoption Blues that is helping me.  For three years you are waiting and praying for this BIG thing to happen and it happens and you realize that there is hardness to it that you thought you were prepared for but can’t really prepare for.  For the most part they are adjusting well to our expectations of behavior, guidelines and routines.  We can’t complain about that!  But, adding FOUR people in any family takes something out of you.  I have to allow the bonding to be little bits each day and not expect instant emotional connection for me or them.

The language barrier is harder than I thought.  It is mostly hard because we can tell them what we need to, but we can’t really “hear” them as much as we would like. We are able to use GOOGLE translate and then have them read or read out loud what we said to them.   I think about in a year asking them what they were thinking in the beginning.img_7299

Continued thanks for your prayers, meals, and just general encouragement!

Love , The Schaffners

New Days

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It is funny how many things are different than I thought they would be once the boys came home.  For one, I thought I would have no time to blog.  I realize though, that I need to blog.  Somehow it helps me to process things in a way different than just journaling. Perhaps because I think the things the Lord shows me may help someone else.  I pray that is so.

The biggest thing that has happened for me personally since ours sons have come home is a great awareness of my capacity to sin.  I am unable to love four people I don’t really know very well in my own strength. I am completely dependent on the Lord to help me to do that.  There is a great sense of my brokenness and an awareness of my limits.  Today’s devotion in Jesus Calling described it very well:

People usually associate victory with success: not falling or stumbling, not making mistakes. But those who are successful in their own strength tend to go their own way, forgetting about Me.  It is through problems and failure, weakness and neediness that you learn to rely on Me.

And one of the verses with it: “For we walk by faith, not by sight.” 2 Corinthians 5:7

The first two weeks have been hard in that we have all taken turns with sickness.  The boys have seem to miss it, except for Ricardo having a fever for a few days.  Thank you all for your prayers re; that.  It is hard to bring them home to cold and sickness!  The fact that Ron was off from school was a great blessing for me to get recovered from traveling and sickness as well as get the routines started off on a good note.

Our sons are tight.  They have been through a lot together and will always be close. The blessing in them staying together is that some of their security is on one another and I think that has made the transition smoother and comforting for them.  They still have one another to talk to in Creole when their brain is tired of hearing English!  We are encouraging them to continue to talk to one another in Creole in hopes of them all keeping their native language.  They have adjusted to eating very well, seeming to like whatever we have and being normal kids in not really wanting veggies!  They are good sleepers once asleep and can play for hours on end.  They mix dollhouse people, Legos, action figures, Fischer price people and animals all together!  The one thing they asked for when they were in Haiti and sent us a letter were remote control cars, which they love!  They also love dart guns, legos, and are able to sit through entire movies with no problem. They absolutely LOVE riding their bikes in freedom at Tate Park on the new trails! They have had several soccer games in our backyard, some with Ron and I too!  They really don’t seem to mind the cold and like the snow.  They loved sledding!  We look forward to having a few outings soon! They have skyped with two different families who have adopted from their same orphanage, which has been nice.  Jimmy and Ricardo like to repeat what you say.  When Ron prays for meals, Ricardo tries to copy everything!  We are trying to do some basic English lessons before they go to school.  They have amazing cursive!

We continue to thank you for your prayers and support.  The meals being brought sure are spoiling me!  They have all been so delicious.  I honestly don’t know how I am going to get thankyous done for all the amazing things others have done for us!

I learn something each day from them, not unlike our bio children.  It is amazing to me how quickly they share with Ella or Ally.  It is so sweet how they hide toys under their mattress and pillow like they did at the orphanage, to make sure they are “safe.”  I have been pleasantly surprised on how they seem to know when they are full from a meal.  They sure are happy they are done with their yucky medicine.

God is faithful.

Love,

Michelle and family

 

One week in

One week in, things are going well overall.  We have had to change some plans for the Holidays to accommodate the Dr’s recommendations, but now all the boys’ bloodwork looks good.  Many of our Bio children and me, Michelle have been pretty sick with what we think may be the flu.  Please pray for Luke, he got hit really hard this time. 😦

Ron has been a rock for me emotionally adjusting to the changes in our family dynamics.  He is seriously my hero right now!  His teaching experience has come in handy in dealing with our new sons!

All four are doing well eating, playing, sleeping and now even taking their yucky  medicine.  They played soccer outside today for two hours!  Anna loved this!  Josh joined in too!  They love riding bikes and don’t even mind the cold.  Tonight they devoured tacos and really don’t like sweets.  It will take some time for them to learn to trust that we will meet their needs.  While the first two weeks are considered a honeymoon period and I have Ron and the kids home to help, we are very thankful for how things have went so far.

We are so humbled by the continued outpouring of love and support from our community, church, other churches, family and friends.  Meals, cards, donations, trips to the store, and especially your continued prayers.

For me my biggest struggle is allowing the enemy to taunt me with fears.  And yet the Lord has commanded us not to fear!  In fact, The most commonly repeated phrase in the whole Bible, in both the Old Testament and the New Testament, is “Have no fear!” or “Do not be afraid“. 

And so we look to Him each day for our daily bread, trusting He will provide us with all the emotional, physical and spiritual needs to make it through each day.

Some huge praises are:

  1.  Neither Ron, myself or Ella got sick while we were in Haiti
  2.  Safe travels and timely flights
  3. Adjustments are going well

We are praying re; schooling as the boys are super anxious to start school.  We have told them that the sooner they learn English the sooner they can start!

I will try to keep you updated as time allows.

Many Blessings to you,

The Schaffner Familyimg_20161217_102327img_20161217_153032img_20161217_102418