I’ve been wanting to and planning to blog for awhile, but my life seems busy and stressful and that makes it hard to find time to sit quietly without any distractions and compose my thoughts. I often feel like I’m being pulled in five directions at once. Five kids all want my attention and some are very jealous when someone else is getting it. Sigh. I have a very understanding husband and a God who listens to me talk to Him all day long as I ask Him for patience, wisdom, patience, strength, patience, help! Ah, did I mention patience? Oh, God gives me so many opportunities to learn patience, so many tests that I often fail. But, I keep praying for patience, and maybe someday I’ll have some. Here is a poem/prayer by Ruth Bell Graham that is often in my heart:
"Lord, when my soul is weary and my heart is tired and sore, and I have that failing feeling that I can’t take anymore; then let me know the freshening found in simple, childlike prayer, when the kneeling soul knows surely that a listening Lord is there."
Please keep up the prayers for our family! Thanks!
More than a decade ago a garden was planted by a young gardener. The flowers sprung up and reached for the sun and soaked in the rain. The conditions were harsh, the winds strong. People passing by would walk through the garden and crush the tender plants. Dogs would tear around chasing each other and tear up the ground and uproot the plants.
The young gardener started gathering stones to build a wall around the garden to protect the tender young plants from the predators and the strong winds and thoughtless people walking through. Stone by heavy stone was arranged around the garden and stacked with great care. The wall was added to every day, wet mud and clay oozing out between the layers. The young gardener’s hands were raw and bleeding as she worked.
It wasn’t a beautiful wall, but it served its purpose – most of the time. It blocked the view from the passers-by; many people didn’t even notice the wall or the garden inside. The winds and the rains continued to beat against the wall, chipping away at the “mortar” and the stones; parts of the wall began to crumble.
Sometimes well-meaning people would come and look over the wall and take an interest in the garden. They would lean against the wall and rest their arms on the top. Others would look over and criticize or throw garbage over. The young gardener was alarmed by this and so she reinforced the wall – making it thicker and higher. On the side of the wall where people passed by, the gardener edged the top of the wall with sharp stones and bits of broken glass, hoping to discourage people from leaning over and looking in.
As the wall rose higher, the flowers in the garden didn’t get much sun and so many of them wilted and died or slowly withered away.
Many people now left the garden alone and didn’t waste their efforts to try and scale the high, jagged wall. Once in a while someone would scale the wall and look down upon the garden. The young gardener would quickly hide in the shadows, waiting for them to leave. A couple of these visitors didn’t give up but came regularly and waited patiently, trying to engage the gardener in conversation. They complimented her on her small garden and sometimes gave her suggestions as to its care.
When her flowers died these faithful visitors gave her more seed. The young gardener accepted these, somewhat reluctantly. She wanted to have complete control over her garden, but she realized it wasn’t prospering.
There were a couple small holes and cracks in her garden wall where she tried to look through to watch people passing by. Then she would plug them up with grass or weeds so others couldn’t look in.
One day some big boys scaled her garden wall and jumped right inside. They ran wildly around the garden, trampling the struggling flowers. They laughed at their sport and even threw clods of dirt at the young gardener as she crouched near the wall, trying to be invisible. Then they left the way they had come.
The young gardener sat alone for days, sadly looking at the mess that had been her garden. She decided to build her wall thicker and higher to keep out the cruel boys.
The two, regular, caring visitors didn’t give up. They watched her build her wall. They talked to her. Most days she ignored them, so totally involved in the building of her wall.
The young gardener was not happy. She felt somewhat safe, but she was not happy. She had hours to herself now, with no one to talk to. She was enveloped in sadness. Her garden was ugly and dying. There was very little sunlight that came over her wall. In the very middle of her garden was a hardy flower. Every day the sun shone on it briefly. The flower stretched upward to reach the sunlight. The young gardener loved this little flower. She would sit for hours and stare at it. Yet, the young gardener was sad. She was lonely.
Her high wall kept people out. Most days she didn’t see anyone. Yet, when her two faithful visitors tried to visit, it was hard for them to come near her. Thistles and thorn bushes grew up around the outside of her wall. They grew high and thick and became entangled. The wall was hard to climb – it was rough and had many jagged edges. When they tried to navigate the prickly bushes and climb the wall, their hands and knees were cut, bruised and bleeding.
The young gardener felt her heart stir within her when she heard them approach her wall and shout out a greeting. Yet, she also feared them when they climbed over and came inside with her. She wasn’t concerned that they were bleeding and had made a great effort to see her.
The two visitors were experienced gardeners. They taught the young gardener how to care for her garden, how to dig around the plants and which plants were weeds and needed to be pulled.
The young gardener once again took pride in her garden, though to an outsider it was not beautiful. It was overgrown and tangled in the corners and there were bare, dead spots throughout. She had much to learn.
When she was sad or depressed she would just sit for weeks, gazing at her garden, watching as the weeds took over and choked out the small, struggling flowers. The creeping weeds curled around the larger plants. It was too much work! She didn’t know what to do!
Then one day a family came to visit her. They offered to help her with her garden every day. She smiled and accepted the offer, but inside her the fear was tightening around her heart. She was relieved that someone cared enough for her to help her with this huge task. The family came every day. They knew how to climb the wall. They came right in and made themselves at home.
Often the young gardener was still very sad. She was unwilling to help with the garden work. The family tried to clean up the weeds, but they had deep, tangled roots and there were no tools. They pulled at them until they came out, leaving the roots under the ground. It rained and the weeds sprang up, stronger than ever. The ground was rock hard.
The family wanted to plant new flowers and bushes, but, without the proper garden tools, it was next to impossible to break up the hard soil.
The young gardener thought the family would give up and not come back, but they didn’t give up. She didn’t understand their commitment. Why did they come? Why would they want to help her when there was so little they could do? She didn’t trust them. Maybe they wanted her to leave so they could take over the garden. But, she had no place to go. She would stay. She didn’t need them. She became grumpy and miserable. She wouldn’t smile at the family when they came. She would glare at them. They HAD to know that this was HER garden and SHE WAS IN CHARGE!
Her garden got uglier and more overgrown with weeds. When the family was gone she tried to clean it up, but without tools, she didn’t make any progress.
One day she told them not to come the next day, so they didn’t. Ah – a little breathing room - she didn’t need them! When they came two days later she didn’t smile, but was glad to see them.
This went on for days and weeks and months. The family sometimes became discouraged, too. They SO wanted to help the young gardener to make her garden beautiful. On some days she seemed glad that they came, but often she didn’t make it easy for them.
Finally, one day, the family suggested she leave her small garden and come live with them in their large garden. She looked around her and saw there was no hope or future with her garden, so, with fear and anxiety, she accepted the offer. She felt so helpless and alone she figured she had no other options. And so began a whole new world of gardening for the young gardener and her new family.
I just read the story in I Samuel 7 where the Israelites cried out to God to save them from the Philistines and they asked Samuel to cry out to God for them, which he did. The Philistines came to fight them “But the LORD thundered with a loud thunder upon the Philistines that day, and so confused them that they were overcome by Israel… . Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen, and called its name Ebenezer, saying, ‘Thus far the LORD has helped us.’”
This really spoke to me in light of our “journey”. We have cried out to the LORD to help us. He has helped us. There are battles to fight, but He is with us to help us. I could raise an “Ebenezer” and also say, “Thus far the LORD has helped us.” I know I don’t need to worry about the future because God has been our help and He will not forsake us but will be with us to see us all through. What a comfort that is!
We heard a wonderful sermon this morning that gave us HOPE. Rev. Codling (visiting from Saskatchewan) preached on Philippians 4:10-20, but especially on verse 19: “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” I kept thinking “He’s preaching this just for me!” Jans said he thought the same himself.
I was reminded that God can handle all my needs and all the needs of all of my children. God hasn’t promised to make my life easy or happy all the time. When things are hard and I ask God to help me, He DOES help me — perhaps not in the way I want Him to. But I see His hand in our lives. I know that He is with us and has a plan and purpose for everything.
Someone asked me today, “Do you every wonder if you did the right thing?” (adopting) I said that I know we did the right thing. It isn’t easy. It’s very hard. I (we) struggle and cry out to God for help and wisdom and direction. Then we have to trust God. We have to rest in His will, His plan. We don’t see the big picture.
Rev. Codling also talked about the armor of God found in Ephesians 6. We must be “strong in the Lord” and “stand against the schemes of the devil”. There is a spiritual battle at hand. Prayer is so important. It encourages us so much when people tell us they are praying for us.
Today we sang this line from “Blessed Be Your Name”: “On the road marked with suffering, Though there’s pain in the offering, Blessed be Your name!” So, no matter the outcome of each day or each struggle, I need to bless the Lord and trust in Him.
Denise Oct 6, 2013
I’ve been thinking about that phrase quite a bit these past couple of weeks. It seems so appropriate. When you’re in a dark tunnel and can only see darkness it is rather scary and despairing. Where do you go? Which way do you turn? How do you get out of it? But you just keep walking in the direction you think you need to go, and suddenly you see a speck of light far off in the distance. It’s not much, but it is reassuring. You know you need to keep walking in that direction. It might be far away, but it gives you hope; and as the Bible says, “hope does not disappoint us”.
It might take a long while to emerge from this dark tunnel and reach the light, but it is encouraging to know we’re going in the right direction.
Please continue to pray for us as I homeschool five kids with varied emotional and educational needs. Pray for willing hearts. Pray for God to give me creativity and direction.
We are so amazed and humbled by the encouragement and support of those who have been following our journey and praying for our family. Progress is being made. There has been progress in English skills, but there’s still a long way to go.
What a blessing it is to be part of the Body of Christ! Several people at church today spoke to Jans or me and told us that they are praying for our family. That knowledge just encourages and lifts us up. We are not in this alone. It is not up to us to DO IT ALL! God hears all the prayers.
There have been several times in the past twelve weeks that something has happened that causes us to look at each other and say, “people are praying, there is no other reason for this; people are praying!” So, thank you and keep praying.
PRAY for wisdom and compassion for us as parents.
PRAY for five children who have various issues in adjusting to the “new normal”. Pray for God’s Spirit to be at work here. PRAY for the changes that September will bring: Jans goes back to work after a six month “parental leave”; Denise resumes homeschooling five “students” grades one to nine. (Pray for wisdom, patience, creativity … learning and relationship-building.)
Last week Jans and I talked to an adoption counselor who specializes in adoptions of older kids from Ukraine and Eastern Europe. It was just what we needed: encouragement, direction, things to implement and HOPE. She told us that these kids are in crisis mode much of the time. What we see in our home is “typical” for this situation. So, we have new knowledge that can help us be better parents. We are so thankful to have this encouragement.
We’ve also had the best week so far —eight days in a row of positive participation in the family! Wow!!!
It’s been a hard “row to hoe”. But our God is faithful and loving and He never forsakes us. What a joy and comfort!
Denise August 10
On Wednesday we (the seven of us) were driving north from Drumheller, where we had camped for four days, and Jans was trying to use a certain word in a sentence that he couldn’t remember, but he said “it starts with ‘dis’”. So, for the next hour or so we used lots of “dis-” words in our conversation. It became a fun game, but alas, we couldn’t DIScover what the word was. It was DISappointing but we didn’t DISpair. (I know, it’s spelled despair!)
Suddenly I thought of an old hymn and we started singing it: COME, YE DISCONSOLATE (Blue Psalter Hymnal #458) The words seemed so appropriate for our current situation.
"Come, ye disconsolate, where’er ye languish, Come to the mercyseat, fervently kneel; Here bring your wounded hearts, here tell your anguish; Earth has no sorrows that heaven cannot heal."
We have a wounded heart living with us. She is sad. She is hurt. She is distant. We feel helpless to help her. We pray, “God, show us what to do. We don’t know what to do.” A sorrow of the heart can only be healed by God.
We are adopted sons and daughters of God. It is a beautiful picture. Do we also grieve God by keeping our distance, by ignoring Him, by not obeying Him? I’m sure we do, but He loves us unconditionally. We are human. How can we love unconditionally?
Our hope is in God. We must trust that He has a plan. He, through His Holy Spirit, can work where we cannot.
Pray that God removes the heart of stone and replaces it with a heart of flesh. (Ezekiel 11:19) Pray that God heals the sorrows and anguish. Pray that God helps us to be loving and discerning parents; that we may know how to “disciple”. Pray for four younger siblings that must also learn to love where it isn’t returned.
Thank you to all who pray for us regularly.
To encourage Katia to learn English she has been attending ESL classes every Tuesday and Thursday evening as well as being registered in a program for newcomer youth that meets Mondays and Wednesdays from 9:00-4:00. The ESL classes have been a real positive experience for her. She enjoys attending them and comes home happy. The daytime program includes a field trip every Wednesday (so far, to the zoo and the science center), and participating in activities that encourage English practice at the center every Monday. Other than her NOT being impressed with the science center, she has enjoyed the other activities.
Last Sunday our family attended the Slavic Church of Ukrainian/Russian Christians for their morning worship. As it was all in Russian, Katia enjoyed watching the rest of the family not understand what was being said. They provided us with a translator (via headphones) for the THREE sermons and the announcements. The service was 2 1/2 hours long. Having much of it translated was a big help! This small church family was very warm, welcoming and sincere in their worship. It was a blessing to worship with them. After the service we attended their picnic in the park and had opportunities to speak with many of them. Katia was warmly welcomed there as well. Many of these people told her they, too, were from Odessa. It was a very positive day for all of us, but especially for Katia.