Sunday, May 22, 2011

Family Moments

To say that welcoming and assimilating four children, all under the age of 8 into our home at one time has been an adjustment, is like saying that a hurricane is a little windy: it just doesn't capture the magnitude of the event!   As many of you know from our previous blogs, not every day has been filled with the ecstatic, euphoric and warm fuzzy feelings that one hopes to feel often and intensely in your family.  But recently, we got one of those moments.  A rare, we're-all-in-this-together, family event.  And just what was this special moment?  Jonah, the 2 year old, used the potty for the first time!  It was a momentous occasion as all seven of us gathered in the smallest room in our house.  There, in that 5x6 bathroom, the little fellow kept us spellbound for a period of time much longer than should have ever been the case.  Let's break it down for a minute.
The event all began within the context of usual bedtime routine.  This is that time each evening when dinner is out of the way and kids are generally doing anything and everything to avoid going to bed.  The boys streak through the house, requiring multiple prompts to put on their PJs while bigger sister wanders aimlessly from room to room trying to instigate play amongst the troops.  Mom and Dad are barking out orders and directives like a drill sargent, while Jeffrey tends to avoid the entire chaotic scene by immercing himself in his XBox games.  But this night was destined to be different.  In the middle of the usual pandemonium comes an excited little voice proclaiming "Potty, mommy, potty!"  Ah, music to a mom's ears!  Parents wait countless days for such words as  family resources are poured into seemingly endless supplies of diapers and pull ups!  Its amazing the joy that one feels over that one simple word "potty" uttered by a toddler clutching his crotch firmly with both hands while in desparate need!
But that one word set us in immediate motion.  It was like a warning sirene going off on the deck of the USS Nemesis!  "All hands on Deck!  All hands on Deck!  The two year old is going to the potty!"  Ah-uuuu-Ga!  Ah-uuu-Ga!   Mom immediately grabbed Jonah by the hand and sprinted to the bathroom  while busily instructing patience to a 2 year old and trying to wrestle his diaper to the ankles in haste.  By this time, the news that Jonah was being fitted for seating on the upstairs throne spread throughout the ranks and in a flash the entire rank-and-file had gathered in the tiny bathroom.  All 7 of us!
Jonah was hoisted to the throne where he commanded the attention of the entire family.  But was it for real or just another delay in going to bed?  The red-face, the puffed cheeks and the various grunts and moans were dead giveaways that this little fellow meant business.  This was a determined effort to produce while under the pressure of skeptical siblings who were not yet convinced that he was indeed going to use the potty.  "Are you sure, Mom?"   "I don't know Mom.  I don't see anything", Judah stated as he squirmed around the backside of the toilet hoping to get a better angle.  "Come on man, you can do it!" came the admonitions of Jeffrey who at this point had assumed the role as head cheerleader in this momentus occasion.  At this point, the entire crowd followed Jeffrey's lead, breaking out in variety of cheers and chants, spurring the young tyke on to greater heights.
"He did it!" Mom announced!  Judah, peering down the dorsal view, confirmed the sighting.  It was one solitary rabbit-sized pellet floating proudly in roughly 3 gallons of water as the crowd now broke out in cheers and high fives!  "See if you can do another one, Jonah!" Judah shouted!  Jaden jumped into dad's arms laughing and for a moment, sharing in his brother's acheivements.  While that was as productive as Jonah could get, we nevertheless broke out in a chorus of  Luther Vandross' "One Shining Moment" and rehearsed the entire event for the next 30 minutes.  Bedtime was now shot and it took us an hour and half to get things back under control.  But, for that one shining moment, all the frustrations, fears, quirks and questions about our new children faded into that wonderful experience known as!  Its the experience defined by being together in close quarters, cheering on one of the gang on who is struggling, rejoicing in another's acheivement and sharing the joy of being together.  All we can say is that it is the strangest things that bind us together!...
Russell (taking credit ...or blame, for the post) and Karen Thomas  

Friday, May 6, 2011

Words For A Child's Life

A child's life is a blank page. 
What will the first words be? 

Shut up! 
Get out of my sight. 
Go play. 
Don't touch! 

You, that child's parent, write upon 
These words teach fear. 
They register unwantedness. 
They say, "I don't love you." 

Let your words teach gentleness and beauty. 
Let them supply high moral principles, 
courage to meet life's disappointments, 
pride in a job well done. 
Use words that reflect your love: 

Beautiful, son! 
You did a great job. 
Don't worry--we'll clean it up together. 
I'm so proud of you!
When your child is grown, you will look at him 
and see the words you wrote on that blank page. 
Write words you will be proud of!

Author Unknown

There is one universal truth in this world:  your words will determine the future.  I am told that in every major religion in the world there is something in their teaching that reflects this principle.  In Christianity, it is a central and essential life giving principle.  God spoke the word and the world was created.  Moses spoke the word and the Red Sea split, saving the Hebrew nation from certain annihilation.  Jesus spoke the word and the centurion’s servant was healed.  Paul turned and looked deep into the eyes of a tormented lady and spoke the word and her tormentors fled abruptly.  Later, in Romans 4:17 he tips his hand, telling us he got the idea from God, for “He gives life to those things that are dead, and calls those things that are not as though they were.”

In parenting, the truth about your words and how they shape the life of another human being is paramount.  Early in our parental careers we read an excellent book by John Trent and Gary Smalley called The Blessing.  What is remembered about that book is the concept of painting “word pictures” for your children.  The idea is to speak words of blessing over them in the form of a picture of their life.  Its an awesome thought that a child’s destiny is so colossally determined by the words that they absorb so early in life.  Where does a child get the idea that he is worth something in this world?  Where does she gain the understanding that she does not have to compromise her standards in order to gain acceptance?  Conversely, where does the child learn that he will never amount to much in this world?  Where in the world did a 5 year old get the idea that he’s a holy terror (or unholy!) and an unwanted addition to the family?

Who writes these messages on a child’s hearts?  Obviously, parents get first shot at it.  Me, you and every parent in this world will speak into their child’s life.  Will the child hear the sounds and voice inflections of acceptance?  Or will it be words of rejection and that their life is one of intrusion and hardship?  Its an awesome responsibility, perhaps the most awesome responsibility in the whole world.  But even more, it’s the most awesome privilege in the whole world to think that God Himself, has trusted us enough to place such a powerful tool, not in our hands, but in our mouth!

But who else writes these messages on a child’s heart?  Over the years we have been so aware of the words spoken to our children and have guarded their hearts from words that could have caused destruction.  As parents, we took this principle of the spoken word very seriously.  We have made tough, sometimes unpopular decisions to not leave them in children’s church, remove them from classrooms, and not visit some of their friends’ homes because we were wary of the messages they would receive while there.  We made sure that those who were writing on our children’s hearts would be speaking words we knew would be productive and help them grow.

And what was the fruit of our efforts?  We now have the advantage of hindsight as 4 of our children have hit their 20’s and see them acting on those words that have been etched on their hearts for years.  In short and without squawking our pride too much, our older children are solid, love God, respect themselves and others, and contribute much to the Kingdom of God and society.  Their lives were no accident.  They were spoken in profound, positive prophetic ways from day 1…and we aggressively and unapologetically did everything we could to protect them from others who add negative, ungodly words to their cerebral processes!

We’re in month 5 now with our 4 new children.  Its amazing the scripts that have already been written on their hearts and minds, even down to the 2 year old.  Many of the words have been quite toxic and have generated significant hurt and disappointment.  But, like a spring flower blossoming after a good soaking rain we have noticed that our new children respond to kind words, words of affirmation and reassurance, and a lexicon of acceptance and love.  They begin to open up, hearts are merry, and emotions are healed as they leap (sometimes literally) with joy and excitement.  It saddens us that 463,000 children are currently involved in the Foster Care system in the United States alone, about a third of which are available for adoption.  Who is writing words on their hearts?  Is it staff that are going home at 5:00 sharp?  Is it the social worker?  Or maybe the parents that failed to provide basic nurturing in the first place?  Or is it the kids at school who can be so “innocently” ruthless on the kid living in a decent home, not to mention “the kid living in the shelter”?  Or even worse, maybe it’s the 15 year old who’s also in Foster Care, who projects his or her lifetime of hurt and negative words onto the 6 year old housemate!  Oh if people only realized the damage they can do with their words! And what a difference can be made with the right words.

Our task now is to rewrite those negative words and give these four children a positive, healthy future. The kind of future God intended for them from the beginning. What words can you speak in someone’s life today?