Thursday, January 16, 2014

Catching up

After a short hiatus, I am back.  I have really struggled with the what to tell and how much.  To help me explain my thoughts, I have added a page at the top entitled, "Transparency in Adoption."  I want you to know that I am not being transparent in this blog.  More like opaque.  I don't mind sharing the good, and I don't mind sharing my personal struggles, but I will be very careful about sharing anything about my girls that would embarrass or frustrate them.

So...with that said, I will tell a little about some of our latest adventures.

Of course, the big event was Christmas.  It is SO FUN to have first Christmas with an older child.  Everything is fresh and new.  We had an awesome Christmas.  Here are a few pictures:

Davina got to experience Johnson family traditions including picking and out and decorating the tree, baking cookies, Christmas Eve service followed by Christmas Eve jammies, and the fun of Christmas morning.  (Although she slept through Black Friday shopping!)  Yuly and Riza had a little bit of a challenge waiting for three teen-aged sisters to awaken on Christmas morning, but they waited (mostly) patiently.

Over break, all seven of us went to see Frozen.  We are still singing the songs...(Do you want to build a snowman?)  But really, the story is wonderful.  There are so many lessons in it that we have discussed.  Like the beauty of family.  Like "perfect love casts out fear."  Like the benefit of having sisters :)

And now, we have resumed school.  Audrey started her final semester at Tallahassee Community College. Savanna returned to finish out her Junior year at Community Christian School.  Riza and Yuly have gotten back to the routine for homeschool and Classical Conversations.  But Davina has something new!  Davina was not a fan of homeschool  (I am not breaking any confidences here, she told anyone who would listen!) so we promised to make some changes.  We have found a great school for her.  It is a school with very individualized instruction and (as a bonus) the owners have three daughters adopted from China.  All of the children in the school have reading/language/learning issues, and although Davina is the only one in the school with English as a Second Language issues, the school is equipped to help children who need extra help.  She has gone for one week and she has been very happy.  She is very tired when she comes home every afternoon, so she takes a nap and then gets up to do her homework.  We are excited to see the progress that she is making.

I plan to post more often now that I have clarified for myself how I will handle sharing stories of our family.  I will close with a silly story...

Riza is a very silly girl.  She loves to sing and dance (and talk)--whether anyone is watching (or listening) or not.  One day, Riza was in the living room and she was singing a nonsense song loudly (and probably dancing around) while Todd, Davina and Yuly were in the kitchen.  Yuly said, "That girl is just crazy."  Todd answered, "She gets it from her mother."  Yuly replied, "Davina, do you think she gets it from Mom or Dad?"  Davina said, "Both..together..that way the crazy is stronger."

Monday, November 4, 2013

Hope in Christ

When we were trying to decide if we were going to embark on our China adoption journey, we speculated about how this adoption would impact our family.  I remember attending a worship service during that time and singing along with a Chris Tomlin song

 "if this life I lose, I will follow You."  

It struck me that the odds of my dying in my pursuit of God are not too great right now.  However, I may lose my life as I know it--the things I enjoy, the dreams I have for my family, my plans.  Those may be lost as we jump into the unknown.

As you know, we decided to take the leap of faith..  We followed where God was leading.

We have experienced loss.  One of the losses that my girls have struggled with the most has been the absence of my oldest daughter.  She moved out when Davina moved in.  In addition to missing her, we have had to navigate having a new sister/daughter.

During this time, I have seen God answer prayers and work in my family more than I have ever seen in my life.  I stand in awe of how gracious and loving God has been.  He has tenderly met the day to day needs of my family.  

Recently, one of my daughters had a really difficult day.  As I dealt with the stress of the day, I sensed God at work in me--giving me strength, wisdom, and patience.  I was grateful for His presence and provision.

A few days later I read these words from John Piper:

He (God) beckons us into the obedience of suffering not to demonstrate the strength of our devotion to duty or to reveal the vigor of our moral resolve or to prove the heights of our tolerance for pain, but rather to manifest, in childlike faith, the infinite preciousness of his all-satisfying promises.
(From "Desiring God")

In my light suffering (dealing with a raging child is difficult, but in reality, it is low on the scale of suffering endured by other believers), I am learning that my hope is in Christ alone.  As I deal with difficulties, I experience God in new ways and I begin to see more clearly that He is all sufficient and that my joy is in the sufficiency of Christ.  My most satisfying joy does not come from obedient kids, a clean home, or an attentive husband but from Christ alone who is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.  When my joy comes from the all sufficient Christ, my circumstances don't matter.  My hope is fixed on Christ.  His promises are precious and He meets my deepest needs.

This is such a liberating truth that I am only beginning to understand.  I am grateful for this journey and how God is revealing Himself to me.

I want to end with some pictures...While the point of this post has been the joy that I have in Christ, I have a lot of fun and laughter in my everyday life.  I want to share a few pictures of my girls.  Following are pictures of Halloween and of Yuly, Riza, and Davina meeting the FSU Lady Noles Basketball players.  Both events were tons of fun!!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Opening eyes

For our family, the path to our second adoption began with the awareness of a need.  We learned information about the plight of orphans in China that we could not ignore.  As the Bible says,

"Once our eyes are opened, we cannot pretend we do not know what to do.  God, who weighs our hearts and knows what we know, and holds us responsible to act."  
Proverbs 24:12

Here are a few facts about orphans, specifically teen-aged orphans in China, designed to open your eyes:
  • There are approximately 712,000 orphans in China.  Families from the United States adopt .003% of these children each year.
  • Children are no longer eligible for adoption, foreign or domestic, after the age of 14.  
  • Children are allowed to stay in the institution until 16-18, depending on the orphanage. 
  • The amount and type of education for children in orphanages varies widely between orphanages.  
  • Although orphanages do try to help orphans transition to adulthood, there are overwhelming difficulties as these young adults look for work.  The job competition in China is stiff, and the educational training of the orphans is often lacking.  In addition, all individuals in China have an ID number (like a SS number) that they must use on applications and other forms.  This number reflects family of origin and therefore identifies these young adults as orphans which impedes their job search as orphans are considered "bad luck."
  • Of the children who age out, 85% of girls end up involved in human trafficking and 75% of the boys end up as career criminals.

These children who age out are forced to navigate very difficult circumstances without adequate resources, and most importantly without the hope, love, and support that a family provides.

Surprisingly, not every orphan wants to be adopted.  Adoption brings significant change and the thought of it it too overwhelming for some children.  However, the vast majority of teens have seen other children adopted and long to be adopted themselves.

One of these children who has seen his friends adopted, who longs to be adopted is "Ferguson."  He has been a friend of Davina's for 5 years.  He is caring and sweet.  He is an average student, although he has some difficulty expressing himself verbally.  Davina tells me that because she knows him, she does not have trouble communicating with him.  

It is true that adoption is not for everyone...but if you are at all curious, I'd love to chat.  I will tell you the truth...adoption is hard, but soooo totally worth it.  After all, we were adopted once too...

Friday, September 27, 2013


...but Mary quietly treasured these things in her heart and thought about them often.
Luke 2:19 (NLT)

   As we parent the beautiful gifts that God has given us, we have moments, treasures, that we discover along the way.  I think, like Mary, we need to lock these memories away in our hearts and think about them often.  These treasures are special blessings from God.  The psalmist also knew the imortance of thinking of about the amazing works of God.

I will remember the deeds of The Lord
Yes, I will remember Your miracles of long ago.
I will meditate on all Your works
And consider all Your mighty deeds.
Psalm 77:11-12

Sometimes I am looking for, anticipating, finding treasures.  Like when we have planned for a special event or a vacation.  I expect to find treasures at those times.  

However, this week, I unexpectedly mined a gem that I will treasure.  I will draw it out and remember it periodically.  

Davina asked to take Tae Kwan Do lessons.  She said that she had been preparing to take classes in China shortly before we adopted her.  Todd and I agreed for several reasons.  We think the physical exercise will be beneficial.  We want to encourage her to interact with peers (she has been very reluctant to do that).  We want to demonstrate to her that we are going to treat her like we treat her sisters (her sisters each have an extra-curricular activity).  We also have looked for opportunities to show Davina that we will meet her needs (for attachment reasons).  This process has looked very different than with our younger adopted daughter, and in some ways more challenging because as a teenager, Davina wants to do things (and should do some things) on her own, so we look for ways that we can meet her needs.  Allowing her to take this class meets a (sort of) need.

All of these are good reasons.  But the best reason caught me completely off-guard.

During class, parents sit in an adjacent room and watch through a glass, or a few parents may sit in chairs in the classroom.  I asked Davina if I could sit in the room and she agreed.  During class, she repeatedly looked over at me and grinned--especially after she had just completed a move.  She wanted to make sure I was watching,

It struck me.  Davina received good care and had many opportunities in China.  She traveled.  She went to school.  She had lots of friends.

But she didn't have a mom and dad to cheer her on, to pay attention to her, to applaud her successes...

The looks that she gave me during that first class are a memory I will treasure.  I am so grateful to be her mom.  I am thankful that I can be there to watch her and share in her experiences.  I am thankful that God continues to surprise me with unexpected blessings.