Thanksgiving

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I can hardly think about the word Thanksgiving without choking up.  What a year of thankfulness and change for everyone in our family…Chad and I gained a daughter, Lizzie gained a sister, friend, and roommate, Samuel & Thomas gained a new sister who loves them both, Vanessa gained a family and a new life in America while also leaving behind so many who adore her.  I think every single one of us would agree that we have seen God work in a powerful way for each one of us!  We are so thankful.

12 Weeks!

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So hard to believe!  Our girl has been home for 12 weeks today!  We have our three-month visit from the social worker on next Tuesday…so hard to believe.  In some ways it still feels like we just  got home and in other ways it feels like she has been home forever. 

We certainly feel like we are starting to settle a little.  🙂  School and homework continue to be a time warp that no one in our family enjoys, but everyone is doing well and moving forward.  Vanessa is certainly getting into the groove of school a little more.  She is the manager for our school basketball team and is really enjoying her time with all those girls every afternoon.  Their first game is tomorrow. 

Thank you for your continued prayers…they bathe us with His grace and give us strength.  Of this truth we are certain. There is so much I want to tell you about what we have been learning, but I am afraid I would not do the story justice at this point.  I am guessing it may take a while longer and better perspective before I can really put it all into words.  Just know that we have learned a lot so far, a lot about grace and mercy. We have learned about  just waiting and praying for the Lord to move and heal and redeem.  And He never fails.  I am sure we will continue to feel this way for many months to come, but for today, we feel good.  Really good!

We are enjoying the fall season, the beautiful leaves and all the fun that comes with this time of year.  Vanessa thoroughly enjoyed her first Halloween and trick-or-treating experience and was not ready to quit even after the big kids did our neighborhood and the neighborhood next door.  She doesn’t even really like candy, but she LOVED trick-or-treating!  We are looking forward to spending Thanksgiving in Augusta with Chad’s family and staying home for Christmas with my family. 

I am going to put up another post in a little while with just photos, but am too lazy to load them into the computer right now…Halloween costumes are always a riot at my house  🙂

♥amy

Honesty

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I have sat down to write this post a thousand times.  Well, maybe not a thousand, but quite a few :).  I have to confess that I am spending a lot of time reading other people’s blogs, especially post-adoption blogs instead of writing my own.  There is an understanding and a camaraderie there that I cannot explain.  I am so encouraged by reading their stories and by knowing I am truly not alone in this. 

In all honesty, this is hard.  Adoption is hard.  We have an enemy.  He wants our daughter to remain an orphan, at least in her heart.  He wants Chad and I to feel completely inadequate in every way.  He wants our other children to feel abandoned.  He wants us in complete isolation and alone.  He wants to separate us from those who support us.  His goal is to seek out the weak and destroy them.  And some days I feel like he is winning.  I feel like I am the weak one and he is destroying every bit of joy in my life.  I have cried, I have been angry, I have been overwhelmed.  

The good news is that I know those are just feelings and I know the TRUTH.  The truth is that as long as we HOLD FAST to God he will not abandon us.  Ever.  He will mold us into a family and HE will write a great story.  I have said before, (and cringed every time) that there is SUCH POWER in being broken-hearted for the things that break God’s heart…and to go through the hard things FOR God and WITH God has blessings that are unable to be counted.  But in the midst of them, they are hard. 

Do not get me wrong…….I do not regret this and would do it again.  Vanessa is a fabulous girl and she IS OUR DAUGHTER.  We will never question if this decision was right.  We know it was God’s plan for us…we know that we know that we know.  But it is kind of like having a baby or getting married or any big life change.  The lead up is so exciting and then the honeymoon is over and you’ve had your first big fight, or your baby is peeing blood because she is not getting enough milk (poor Lizzie), or your adopted daughter cries for hours and is sick all night because she is simply overwhelmed with grief.  And you feel like she is miserable here.  And this was supposed to be a good thing. 

That my friends, is the honest truth.  If you see me and I look a little on the edge, it is because I am.  If I smile and say “Everything is great!” I might be lying so that I do not come unglued and cry all over your shirt and embarrass you in the grocery store (or McAllister’s sorry Little family).  Some days everything is great and some days it is so hard that it literally takes my breath away.  Some days I stand in the shower and cry…and some days when I get home from dropping the kids off at school I lay on my bed with a catatonic look on my face.  But I know that the God we serve can handle this and he is a master at healing and redemption and restoration.  HE CAN DO IT.  We will fight our enemy and we will win.

My favorite quote of all time is from the last scenes from Return of the King.  It is Aragorn’s speech.  There are moments when I feel like I am standing at the Black Gate.  Here it is….
http://youtu.be/EXGUNvIFTQw

Sons of Gondor! Of Rohan! My brothers. I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the heart of me. A day may come when the courage of Men fails, when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship, but it is not this day. An hour of wolves and shattered shields when the Age of Men comes crashing down, but it is not this day! This day we fight! By all that you hold dear on this good earth, I bid you stand, Men of the West!

Can I beg you to pray for us???  ♥amy

A New Adventure

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Well, our sweet girl started school last Friday and had a great day!  For all of you who prayed GOD ANSWERED.  She did meet a friend on the very first day, a girl who is in each and every one of her classes (miracle).  She talked about her several times this weekend and was looking forward to seeing her this morning.  I am so thankful.  As you can imagine she got a fair amount of attention from the *ahem* boys.  Her dad told her this weekend to let them know that he has guns…  🙂  She thought that was hilarious.  Which makes me wonder if she has ever hoped for a man to FIGHT for her honor.  Even if she hasn’t known to hope for that, she has it now.  And I think she likes it. 

I asked her if she is starting to feel a little like this is her home, or does it still feel like a vacation.  She says she is not sure, but I see little things from time to time that make ME think she is starting to feel more at home here.  She gets food without asking which is a HUGE step from where we were in the beginning and she also is willing to tell me what she wants, even though it takes a while sometimes. 

All in all I think we are settling in very well.  The charade is coming to an end and I feel like she is experiencing the “real us”.  I read a great blog post today that talked about “Fake Family“.  HOW TRUE IT IS in adoption!  I had this vision of how our family would be once she arrived and really, we are the same ole messed up people we were before…we just added a new person.  Fortunately, our new person is crazy also and loves to sing and dance just like the rest of us!  You don’t get a fake family when you get adopted, you get a real one, and I am certain we are the right one for her.

♥amy

Flexibility

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Hi everybody!  For anyone who is still reading this blog…thank you!  We have been home 7 weeks today!  Wow!  I was looking through some papers yesterday and saw a stack of sticky notes, all together, that were all my notes from booking our flights…it was stuffed under all the paperwork we brought home from the Philippines.  Boy did it take me back.  I was literally shaking and had butterflies in my stomach and did not sleep again after booking those tickets!  As I was looking at them and how meticulously I had written EVERYTHING for our travel plans down (hence many post-its) I was amazed.  Who was that girl (me)?  And then I remember.  She was excited, amazed, overjoyed, and SO HOPEFUL for all that was to come!  I am still that girl, but 8 weeks ago I was not the same woman I am now.  Every step of this journey has brought more amazement, more joy, more challenges, and more of God than I ever could have imagined.  He has taught me PATIENCE (which I never pray for).  It is HARD to adjust to a new culture and somewhat challenging to watch someone adjust to a new culture.  I have learned the strangest thing.  I really didn’t “know” American culture before.  I guess no one does…until you watch someone who has never experienced it.  I catch myself explaining things all the time that I thought were just human nature, but they are really just American 🙂  God has poured out his GRACE on me.  Oh man…this is the biggest one…GRACE that is never ending.  On days when I shouldn’t be able to breathe…I just keep putting one foot in front of the other, and thank Him for the grace, because there is no way I have the ability to just keep going.

Vanessa has had some very sad and quiet days.  Our social worker warned us on our first meeting with her this would happen.  Our girl is grieving.  Not all the time, not every day even, but it comes and it goes, it ebbs and it flows, like all grief does.  She has a hard time verbalizing what she is feeling most of the time…just quiet and sad.  Don’t get me wrong, we are having a lot more happy times than sad, but the sad breaks my heart.  As a mom I just want to make it all go away, but that is not really my job.  The best thing I can do is point her to God and promise her that it will get better and PRAY PRAY PRAY for her.  I would love for her to REALLY open up to me, she does tell me a lot already, but I think she is not really sure what she is feeling, so it would be really hard to explain it to me.  Poor girl. 

On another note…the title of this post is “Flexibility”.  I am not sure who shared this with me, but it has been invaluable.  Someone told me during our time of waiting that we would have to really work on being Flexible…don’t get too tied in to one way that we aren’t able to change.  They were right!  So, we have decided that Vanessa is going to start attending school.  She is completely on board and started the conversation with us.  She wants to make friends and is used to going to school.  I am sure staying home with me has gotten to be a little on the boring side.  We have done a good bit of testing and evaluations and she is going to start in the 8th grade (same as Lizzie) this Friday.  She is nervous and excited all at the same time.  The school has done a good job of getting her in so that she can get to know the teachers as she does her evaluations, so hopefully that will bring her some peace as she begins.  She and Lizzie will have one class together…Lizzie wanted them all together, but I said no.  They both need to have their own friends or I think it could put a strain on their relationship.  American school is very different, larger classes, more homework, etc. than where she was going in the Philippines, but I think she will adjust with time. 

PLEASE PRAY FOR HER!  This begins another period of adjustment to her life here.  I have heard stories of people coming home and only waiting a week before starting school…by the time she starts we will be a few days shy of being home 8 weeks.  Please pray that her teachers would give her TONS of grace and that she would make a friend, even on the first day.  I pray God will protect her from feelings of “not measuring up” and that she would even feel SUCCESSFUL…thank you in advance for your prayers. 

♥amy

Don’t Forget

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We’ve been home a little over a month and I have been trying to organize my thoughts and somehow summarize what I would like to share from our trip to the Philippines to bring Vanessa home. It seems overwhelming to try to share everything. Recently, I was reading and came cross the following verse from Deuteronomy 4:9…Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live.

After reading that verse it became clear that I need to think about it differently. I stopped trying to summarize and decided to focus on the things I do not want to slip from my heart as long as I live.

During our trip we made the decision not to stay in a hotel, but we decided to stay at the guest house at the YMC…why? This would give us the opportunity to participate in Vanessa’s daily environment and experience the people and events she has experienced each day. We also got to be a part of the community (church, mission teams, children’s home) and we even had the opportunity to serve at one of the community feedings. It was emotionally overwhelming to be serving the only meal that these children would be receiving for the day. With all those great experiences…what is the one thing I don’t want to slip from my heart as long as I live?

On Sunday morning we attended church at the JCCV with Vanessa and the members of the community. During the service we all gathered at the front of the church where Pastor Aranas and Jeff Long, the director of the ministry, prayed for us. It was Jeff’s prayer that is the answer to my question. His prayer included the following words (paraphrased):

God, we pray for Vanessa and her mom and dad and family. We pray for courage for her. While we will miss her we celebrate your plans for her. We are sending Vanessa to North Carolina as a missionary…people in NC need Jesus and Vanessa knows and loves Jesus. We pray that lives will be changed and more people will know Jesus because of the plans you have for her.

During that prayer I was once again humbled by God’s greatness and how He works to further His Kingdom and bring glory to Himself. You see, deep down, I somehow thought that I was doing a good thing and through my resources I was saving Vanessa by giving her a home. I had it upside down! God wanted to send Vanessa to NC to be a missionary and live a life that shares her love for Him. That may seem crazy, but that was His plan. He chose the Martin Family to adopt her so she could come to NC to extend the saving grace of Jesus. My resources and abilities were not that important…I was just a part of His plan. Our society would say this family is doing a good thing by adopting a child and giving her a safe and loving home, but God says we need a missionary…we need someone in NC that loves Me and has a story to share about my glory.

Each day seems to bring joy and also another challenge in our new family. While it has been good I can’t say it has been perfect. God didn’t give us a guarantee that it would be easy and some days have been better than others during this transition, but by saying yes to him He has proven He will provide the strength we need.

So here’s the challenge…Do I begin each day, each business trip, each conversation with my neighbors with the thought that God is sending me as a missionary and will provide the strength we need? I personally have a need for growth, but I am constantly amazed by His greatness.

Amazed and challenged by God, Chad

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So much.

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There are so many things I have thought to blog about…and then I wonder what people really want to know. Everything is going so perfectly…not perfect, but perfectly. I continue to be in awe of Vanessa. She is adjusting to life here and taking her homesickness in stride. I would be in a puddle of tears if I were her. She has had more dental work in the past month than most people have in a year (or a lifetime). And has been homeschooled by the most incompetent homeschooler since the beginning of time…well, maybe not THE most incompetent, but not a competent one. She is looking forward to the leaves changing…this is her first Fall. She is excited.

My other kids are doing fabulous…loving her, doing school, being themselves. Chad and I are amazed and overwhelmed that we continue to feel so blessed and so prayed for. God is so good.

In classic Martin style, we have laughed A LOT as we have all worked towards a new normal.
The temps drastically changed here yesterday and it was one of the funniest moments I have seen thus far. Vanessa opened the back door to the garage and grabbed both sides of the door frame and SCREAMED. Then she and I both began laughing hysterically. As we drove down our street she rolled the window down (after turning on the heat full blast and her seat heater) reached her hand out the window and said, “Look! It’s icy!!!!” I looked at the temp on my dash…it was 64 outside. Again, I burst into peals of laughter….and said something like—Oh honey…you ain’t seen nothin yet! The 30 year low in the Philippines is 68 or something like that. Needless to say, January might be a rough month for her. She does take everything in stride but did opt out of Friday night football last night. Haha!

I would love to write more….if you have a question about anything, please feel free to ask it in the comments section…maybe that will give me food for thought!

♥amy