Sunday, January 23, 2011

A family of 8 - 1 year later.

I will always consider January 21st 2010 to be one of the best days in my life because that is the day that the Lord in His infinite wisdom decided to bring Josiah Jacob, Lilliana Faith, and Jeremiah James to become part of our family.

One year ago today we got the surprise call telling us that they needed help and half an hour after that call we were on the way to pick them up.

The past year has been by far the most faith stretching, patience growing, spiritually maturing year of my life. It has been an experience that has tested my husband and I in every aspect of our lives - spiritually , emotionally, financially, and physically. In those hard times I have been so thankful that I have been able to look back and say, “I know the Lord has called us to do this. He IS going to do this.” Through every trial, whether it was in those first few months without Nate, or during those seemingly endless adoption paperwork nightmares, the Lord has been faithful. He has never abandoned us even for a moment and I am in awe of all that He has done.

When the Lord brought us our kids they came with hurting hearts and lots of baggage. Now one year later it is like they are three entirely different children. This is not because Nate and I are the world’s best parents . No. This is a work that only Jesus could do. Only Jesus could make these kids into who they are today and only He could turn them into the awesome Jesus loving adults that I know they will become. In all honesty the kids still have hard days. Josiah still has lots of questions about what happened and why, but in these difficult moments I have hope. I know that because the Lord is the one that began this good work in our kids HE will be faithful to complete it.

I have so many amazing memories in this past year I am pretty sure I could write a book, but instead I will take a minute and share my favorite moment with each of our three newest additions. If you are reading this you might not think that these moments are very special but as their mom I will forever hold these moments in my heart. :)

My favorite moment with Josiah –

Josiah has A.D.D. so school has always been difficult for him. We are homeschooling this year and after the first week I thought that we were going to need to look into something else. I just didn’t think that I was cut out to teach him to read. Man was I ever thankful that we didn’t give up a few weeks later when we were snuggled up on the couch reading and he just GOT IT! All at once it was like a light turned on and he was able to read whole sentences at a time. He was SO excited and I could not have been more proud of him. He kept saying “Mommy I CAN read! I AM smart!!” Ahhhh.. it was a great day. :)

My favorite moment with Lilliana –
If any of your know Lilly you know that she is a spitfire to say the least. I am pretty sure that she will keep her daddy and I on our toes (and our knees) for many years to come.
When Lilly first came to us she was the hardest two year old that I had ever seen. She did not show us any emotion for the first month and when she did start to show her personality it scared me how mean and angry she could be at only two years old. That being said we have seen a change in Lilly that only Jesus could do. She has gone from being the little girl that would not smile at all to become the little girl whose eyes literally dance when she smiles. She has now become our most affectionate child, and I lose track of how many times a day that she runs over and says “I wanna kiss Momma!”

My favorite moment with Lilly was when she was looking at my wedding pictures and said “Momma I wanna grow up! I wanna get married! I gonna marry Daddy- he’s MY prince!”

Lilly is absolutely in love with her daddy. Her favorite thing to do is dance with him. Every time I see them dance together I think “What if she had never had this? What if she never had a daddy to dance with her, or a daddy to walk her down the aisle on her wedding day?” In those moments I always stop and thank the Lord again for bringing these kids into our family, not just for them but for us as well. Now Lilly will have a dad to walk her down the aisle and I get to be the mom that gets her ready to go down that aisle. :)

My favorite moment with Jeremiah (Jer Bear) –
Jeremiah is our little blonde haired blue eyed boy that has a smile about as big as his face. When people meet our family it is always Jeremiah who steals their heart within about a minute of knowing them.

Jeremiah has many health problems. He has hydrocephalus and a V.P. shunt in the right side of his brain along with a handful of other things. Because of his health problems he is considered “slow” but I think that it only adds to his cute personality. Jeremiah is always making us laugh, he doesn’t always quite know why everyone is laughing but he is always laughing the loudest and the hardest and in doing so only makes us laugh more.

Jeremiah is just starting totalk and he is really figure out what he likes and what he is into. So far he has found four things that he LOVES - bugs, basketball, cars and SUPERMAN !

On Christmas Eve my mom sent him a Superman shirt with a cape. Jeremiah put it on and ran around the house playing Superman. When I called him I said, “Jeremiah come here.” He looked up and said, “No! I SUPERMAN!!!!” I think he wore the shirt for three days straight before we could convince him to take it off to wash it and for days he only wanted to answer us if we called him “Superman”. ;)

So there you have it. A couple of my thoughts and memories of this past year. I am so thankful, blessed, and humbled that the Lord choose me to be “Mommy” to these kids. I praise the Lord for His faithfulness over the last year and I am looking forward to the years to come.

Friday, January 14, 2011

God's Grace.

Awhile back my family and I witnessed the “Rio Vermelho Justice System” in action. I was sitting in the front seat of our car pregnant with Ezekiel, the girls were in their car seats in the back seat and Nate had just run into a gas station to pay for some gas that the attendant was pumping. All of the sudden I heard a bunch of men shouting and I looked up to see about twenty guys with 2 x 4’s and palm tree branches running towards our car. As I was trying to take in everything that was going on Hope started shrieking in the back seat, “Daddy!!! Daddy!” as she was looking out the window. I looked out the window to see that the men had taken hold of a man that I knew to be one of the town drunks and they were dragging him all around, pushing him, and hitting him with their weapons of choice. With the help of the gas station attendant I quickly locked all our doors, jumped into the back seat, ripped my daughters out of their car seats, threw them on the floor and laid on top of them. I kept peeking up to look out the window to see if Nate was coming, but the fight was going on in between Nate who was in the gas station and where we were in the car.

The men that held the man hostage made the man admit to stealing different things from each of their business , made him beg for his life and eventually let him stumble away blubbering like a baby.

After the fight a few of the men that had beaten the man explained what had happened to Nate.

This man had been stealing different things from many of our local business, the cops wouldn’t do anything about it so they had to take matters into their own hands. They apologized that we had to see it, but they explained that it was important to make an example out of this man so things like this wouldn’t happen all the time.

After the fight all of the men went back to their jobs, and we continued to run into them that day as we went about our errands. I was in shock that they could all just go back to work as if everything was normal but then it struck me that this is their normal. This is their justice system – If you do what you are supposed to be doing you will be fine. If you mess up and do something wrong you will pay.

As I have thought more about this form of justice over the years I have often thought about how thankful I am that the Lord does not deal with us in the same way. I am sure that I would not be around long if the Lord thought like that “O.K. Dani, you messed up. You are DONE!”

Understanding God’s grace is something that I have always struggled with. He has had to teach me so many times over the years that there is nothing that I can do to earn or deserve Him.

The other day I was having such a bad attitude . All I wanted to do was complain and make excuses for my behavior. I was refusing to call it what it was (sin), and instead I was telling myself ( and Nate poor guy) “I am mad because I am pregnant and cannot stop puking because it is 100 degrees in my house!” or “I am mad because the kids are grumpy because they have not slept well in a week because of the heat.” or “ I am mad because I am SO sick of all these bugs, and a toilet that does not flush and I have to look at a #2 every time I have to throw up!” or “Hormones!!! It is all the hormones fault!” This went on all day and by the time I got to church I had made myself miserable. What I needed was a spiritual spanking but God in His mercy decided to give me something else – GRACE.

There I was bad attitude and all with six cranky kids and getting ready to teach Sunday School when my friend shocked me by asking if I would like to sit in church. Now for you to understand what I HUGE deal sitting in church is to me I have to tell you that in almost four years of being in missions I could count on one hand all the times that I have actually been able to SIT in church. Usually I am busy teaching Sunday School and dealing with kids. Now don’t get me wrong, ministering to kids is not only my ministry, it is my joy. I absolutely love it and I would not trade it for anything in the world, but to be able to just sit and hear the Word in person is such a special treat for me.

As I entered into worship I was broken. I confessed my bad attitude and praise the Lord for blessing me when I SO did not deserve it. What a gracious God we serve.

“ Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 1:3-4)

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Baby #7 Video and Ultrasound!

I have this on Facebook but I wanted to post it on our blog for my friends who do not have Facebook. This is a clip of us telling our kids the BIG news! :) I am not sure why they all ran away when we told them but they were excited!!

Calvary Chapel Mocamba Update of 2010.

Well I know that I never write blogs, but I just wanted to give a little update from the church perspective. Usually you get Dani talking about our family, and Brazil life, but I wanted to let you know about this past year as a church fellowship.

As many of you know that have been reading this blog, our year started out pretty crazy! We were in the states for the holidays and our whole life was changed forever when after much prayer we made the decision to adopt THREE beautiful children. That decision made quite an impact on everything we did in the past year.
The kids came to live with us in January 2010 making our family go from a family of five to a family of eight! Because of the adoption Dani and the kids stayed in Florida until August 2010, while I traveled back and forth from Brazil to Florida until the adoption was final and we were able to travel home to Brazil.

From the church perspective it was a difficult time to go through, I was not able to be with the people the way I would like to, but I could not ask someone to completely take over because we definitely did not feel called to leave the church or Brazil. God did use that time and blessed it as He always does. During the time when I was back in Brazil on my own I was living with a Brazilian friend, and spending my whole time only speaking Portuguese. God used that tremendously in getting me more comfortable with the language, and my ability to be able to have better communication with the people here in Brazil. Our God being so faithful used this time of growing me in the language so that I would be better prepared to start teaching in Portuguese on a weekly basis as my friend and translator of two years was called to go to the U.S. and I started preaching in Portuguese in August. Teaching in Portuguese has been a challenge and a blessing. My head hurts by the end of a study but the church body is loving it! It has really helped us connect to the people on a much deeper level.

As our whole family came back to Brazil together in August, there were so many adjustments to be made. We had to learn how to live together again as we had been through so many huge life changes as a family, and it was all things we were sill getting used to. As we were going through this learning stage, we decided it was best for the time being to keep the church simple. We did not want to add a lot of new things just because we were back. We decided to be faithful in our two services and prayer meetings to show that those basic things will always be there no matter what else comes and goes. This made us better able to do the other little things here and there as the opportunities came up.

In our church we have a group of Y.W.A.M.ers (Youth With A Mission) that do a surf school for the kids in the area which has been in place for a few years just to show the love of Jesus to the kids here in Rio Vermelho. The surf school has been one way we have been able to continue to be serving and blessing the community as a church, without getting too ahead of ourselves during the transition time.
Another thing that has been a blessing is that I have a neighbor who is 13 years old, and loves basketball! This has been an area that God has opened a door through him to reach him as well as some of his friends and develop friendships. I take them once a week to play basketball together, and share the love of Jesus with them.
The ladies in our church also do an art class that is open to the community, and ministers to a lot of the older ladies in our area. Most of the ladies that are attending are not Christians but our prayer is that they will come to know Jesus as they see Him in the lives of the ladies teaching the class.

In addition to our weekly activities we have many other daily opportunities as people are always seeing all our kids and think we are CRAZY. Everywhere we go people want to know who we are, why were are here, and what we are doing. This always seems to open a door and gives us a chance to tell them why we are here and why we care so much for kids - because we love Jesus and this is what He has called us to do! We have had people tell us that they will listen to what we have to say because we came a very long way to say it!
We are taking these simple opportunities that the Lord has given us as we are continuing faithfully to teach the word at church chapter-by-chapter, verse-by-verse. We have been so blessed this year as we are now seeing the fruit in the lives of the people who are consistently sitting under the teaching of God’s word.

We now are feeling like this time of transition has come to an end as we have a good routine and the kids have adjusted to our family as well as a new country. This has recently given me more time to be at church to study, and also to look for more opportunities and doors that the Lord might open in the near future. We are praying about a lot of things in this coming year as we are waiting to see what God has planed for our church body as well as our community. We are right now looking to start an English class for adults, and English bible study near the University, as well as a class besides the studies we already doing, to teach the basic doctrines of the Christian faith.
Please keep all of these things in your prayers as we continue to faithfully serve our very faithful God.
Prayer Requests -
-Growth in our personal relationships with the Lord.
-Open door and open hearts with the people in our community, for them to come to know Jesus.
-Dani's health and pregnancy. For a healthy baby due in June.
-Financial Provision
-Wisdom in raising our kids.
-The Lord to send like-minded helpers in the ministry.

Monday, January 3, 2011

The story behind baby #7.

That is right ladies and gentlemen, you have heard correctly, baby number 7 is on the way! Since I have been keeping this pregnancy on the down low for the last few months I thought it would be a good idea to give you all a little background on what has been going on in our lives and in our family, that way everyone will know how to be praying as we will be needing your prayers more than ever!
After Ezekiel was born in July 2009 our plan was that he would be our last biological baby. All of my pregnancies have been extremely high risk, I have to take a shot of heparin every day (and up 6 shots a day if I use another brand of heparin), and I have always been crazy sick all nine months of the pregnancy. Some of you will remember how sick I was with E.Z. I lost 20 pounds and I almost lost him. Anyways, because of all the weight loss during the pregnancy with E.Z. my stomach muscles were very weak and I had the misfortune of getting four bad hernias because my stomach muscles literally ripped open during the pregnancy (Ewww! ). My doctor said that I would need to have the surgery to repair the hernias six months after E.Z. was born and after the hernias were fixed I would not be able to get pregnant again because it would risk rupturing everything that had been repaired during the surgery.
Lets fast-forward a little bit here. The surgery was going to be in January of 2010 and we were going to pay for it with our tax return money, BUT as most of you know that was not quite how it all played out. On January 21st 2010 we had the blessing and surprise of adopting our three newest additions. Because the adoption took place in the U.S. the kids and I stayed there for eight months and of course we had to spend our tax money that would have gone towards my surgery on the very costly adoption fees.
Fast forward again. In August of 2010 the Lord did a great work and sent our new big family back home to Brazil. Although we were overjoyed to be back home and have the family all together again it was a very stressful time. I did not realize I was pregnant soon after returning to Brazil and because I did not know that I was pregnant I did not start taking the blood thinner shots that I need in order to keep the pregnancy.
Soon after I saw a positive pregnancy test I lost the baby. It was a very strange time. Nathan and I were both surprised by how happy we were when we found out that we were expecting and when we lost the baby we were both very sad even though it had not been in the plan to have another one. The good new is we had already walked through having the four miscarriages when we were first married and we knew that the Lord had a plan and He would make something beautiful out of this trial. :)
My hernias were doing better than we had originally thought they would be after E.Z. was born. My doctor said that I did need to fix them sooner rather than later, but if we wanted to have another baby it would need to be before I had the surgery. So basically he gave us the "Now or never" approach. We prayed about having another baby (a lot!) and we both felt that the Lord was in control and He would do whatever He wanted to do. Sure enough we found out in October that we were expecting again! :)
We were both very excited but we decided to keep the pregnancy on the down low for the first trimester, after all I really did not want to have to explain a miscarriage to my kids.
In all honesty the first trimester was tough. I lost 10 pounds because I could not keep anything down and I just felt tired and weak all the time. The second trimester has still been difficult but SO much better than the pregnancy with Ezekiel, praise the Lord!
My kids have been troopers (as usual) through it all! They really are awesome! They all have been so generous in sharing our one tiny bathroom with a sick mommy and they all run to get me plastic bags at a moments notice. ;) We have developed a system that seems to be working out nicely, when I am too sick to get out of bed and Nate has to be at the church I just bring all six kids to bed with me. I think years down the road our times of snuggling, talking, reading books, and watching movies together will be very nice memories to look back on.
Please continue to pray for our family, my health and for a healthy baby. Pregnancy seems to make me miss all those little comforts of the U.S. much more than I normally ever would. I joke with Nate and say, " I miss all my favorite "F's!" - Friends, Family, Fast Food and Flushing the toilet paper!" lol! Just living in Brazil is a lot more work than living in the U.S. on a normal day. If you add in six little kids under six years old, making sure Nate has enough time to take care of the church and study, homeschooling, keeping up with the house, and a tough pregnancy well... I guess you will find that I need Jesus more than ever. :) Yes it is hard but in reality it is my absolute favorite place to be. I LOVE 100% dependence on Him. I have days that I wake up and say, "O.K. Lord, I can not even get out of bed and I have six little people that need me. I can't do this, I NEED You!" It is a very good place to be.
The way I look at it is I have nine months that I can let the Lord use to stretch me and grow me in my relationship with Him and then at the end of it I get another beautiful baby that I can teach to love Him. What can be better than that?
If I do my job as a mom right, if I raise all my kids to know and love Jesus I have the opportunity to send seven missionaries into the world! No matter what their profession is I know that they will shine their light for Jesus and the world will be a better place because they are in it. :)
Sometimes the Lord will give us more than we can handle, but He will never give us more than HE can handle.
2 Corinthians 12:9 say, " And He said to me, " My grace is sufficient for you, My strength is made perfect in weakness." Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me."
I am so excited to see what the Lord is going to do in and through our family in the year 2011. We are praising the Lord for His continued faithfulness and blessings! :)