4/24/17

Every Day, In Every Way...

I had a woman ask me yesterday how it felt to have little people calling me "mom". I think I shocked her a bit when I responded with, "Very strange." Motherhood was never something I dreamed about or prayed for or wanted - it was something that was thrust on me when I finally listened to the calling that God was pounding me with for years. If left up to my own devices, I'd be sipping coffee on a Parisian street corner rather than telling a child for the umpteenth time that they need to blow their nose into a tissue, not gross out their siblings by blowing snot down their face at the dinner table. But for reasons that I could not see until very recently, God chose to put me with snot-child.

Over the weekend, the Hubs and I were talking about what it has done to us - how it has changed us - to follow God into this adventure of snot-filled craziness. I found my eyes misting over as I confessed to finally realizing why I was so angry with God back in October when we first arrived in Costa Rica and met the kids.

Even though I had spent months - years even - telling people that this adoption thing was all God's story that He was writing, when we were finally at the point of picking up the kids, I threw everything I had at God. I was so angry. Angry that He told us to do this. Angry that He destroyed my comfortable life. Angry that He thought two people who didn't like children should be saddled with five of them. Angry that He didn't come through at the last minute with some kind of sacrificial lamb, letting us off the hook and allowing us to do what we really wanted to do (move to Paris). I cried a lot. I pounded my fists on bed pillows and kicked floorboards in frustration, all while trying to fight for the opportunity to raise these kids that I didn't want.

Eventually, I read enough Scripture, poured forth enough anger, and cried enough tears that I was willing to listen when my wise husband looked at me one day and said, "ENOUGH. You and I may not want to do this, but that is totally beside the point. God called us to do this. You know that, and I know that. It's time to suck it up and DO IT." And so we did. We fought for our five kids. We stood strong against the pressure to bend our beliefs and change our convictions, and in the end, we stood still - and God fought for us.

It's been almost six months since the adoption was finalized, and five months since we flew home to the States. We've moved from survival mode to acceptance mode to "hey, is it just me, or is this getting easier?" mode. My standard answer when people ask how it's going is to say, "Every day is a little bit better." But here's what I've learned... it's not because of me. 

The realization of why I was so angry in October didn't hit me until yesterday, as I sipped hot tea in the car with the Hubs (while other people were taking care of our kids in Sunday school - hello, free parent time!). I suddenly understood that I was angry at God last fall because even though I was paying lip service to His story and following Him and His calling for us (all true, by the way), what I was really thinking, deep down - so deep it took me almost 7 months after the fact to realize it - was, "God, don't You understand what I am doing for YOU? Don't you realize what I have given up? You should appreciate my sacrifice a bit more, and honor it by making life easy now." HELLO!! I'm grateful I wasn't struck by lightening in my ignorant arrogance.

How often, my friends, do we think along those lines? How often do we "serve" God, but really consider it a favor for Him (even if we don't necessarily think of it in those terms)? Who was I to think that obeying God's calling was anything more than just submitting my life to His plan? God didn't need to use me. He could have let me sit still in my passive, contented, spiritual desert, sipping coffees in foreign lands and occasionally praying to Him because it's something Christians do. But He didn't!

Instead of giving up on me when my thick head couldn't get the message of adoption, He hammered harder. Rather than making the journey easy on us, He taught us complete reliance on Him. When we started to take over, He reminded us that apart from Him, we can do nothing. When, in my anger and arrogance, I blamed Him and questioned His choice of life calling for us, He loved me still, and He held my hands when I put my eyes on the waves and wind. Instead of dunking me under the water, He allowed me to walk on it with Him. 

And so yes, as I realized that my anger came from deep within me, I teared up as I looked back and saw how far He has brought me. I am not naturally mom material, but because of the love of Jesus to me, I am able to pass the napkin to snot-child and not be totally grossed out. Because of the faithfulness of Jesus to me, I can say 'yes' to umbrellas and muddy feet that mess up my neat home. Because of the grace of Jesus to me, I can fold laundry and explain to a child that Jesus died for them and what that can mean to them. Because of the forgiveness of Jesus to me, I can seek the forgiveness of the children He has entrusted to me, turning angry outbursts into important life lessons.

Every day is a little bit better... all because of Him.


1/30/17

Let's Talk About Lice

When I logged on this morning to type up this post, I realized that it had been several months since I shared an update (here) about the adoption, the kids, and where God led us as He wrote our story. If you've been checking the blog for those updates, I suggest you head on over to the Facebook page to get caught up. Time is precious, and Facebook updates are about all I can manage these days. At some point I will try to sum up what happened since October 21st (when I last blogged about the adoption), but since I currently have a 2 hour snow delay (and 5 sleeping children), I wanted to knock out the "Lice Wisdom" that I have acquired in the last 4 months, so the longer update will have to wait for another day.

Let's talk about lice (or "piojos" as they are called in Spanish). Evil incarnate is what I refer to them as after almost 3 months of waging war against them, both in Costa Rica and the U.S. after we returned home the end of November. Our two oldest gals never got them (thank the Lord!), but the younger girls apparently have heads that lice find hospitable, and our 6 year old must have some kind of 5-star lice hotel on her head, because the lice fought hard to keep that party going.

Over the course of our Three Month War, we tried everything. Mayonnaise (which several friends swore by), traditional lice shampoos, Tea Tree oil-laced treatments... even PILLS (if those would have worked, I would have stockpiled while we were in Costa Rica... they were, in fact, too good to be true). We have used plastic nit combs, metal combs, hand-picking, and vinegar soaks. If you are waging your own war against the powers of lice evil, let me tell you what has worked for us (finally, Lord willing!), and what I have personally been using that has kept me lice-free throughout this ordeal.

YOU HAVE LIVE LICE... 

Congratulations. I feel your pain. Even though I remember having lice as a kid (one time - thanks to some play hats at a local children's museum), they were apparently less resistant to traditional "RID" treatments than the lice of today, and outside of a painful day of being nit-picked by my mother, I got off pretty easily. Not so with my children. 

After trying traditional and non-traditional solutions, I found myself standing in the lice aisle at our local CVS, scooping every treatment I saw into my basket and praying that one of them worked. Let me introduce you to Vamousse - the wonder foam that FINALLY knocked out the live lice and killed the nits (we'll get to nit-picking next). No, it's not organic and holistic and guaranteed not to ever in your life cause cancer, but it KILLS those suckers and after 3 months, I'm pretty sure your stance on "organic and natural" will have changed too.


TIPS FOR USING VAMOUSSE
  • Don't forget to pick up a cheap shower cap (or 2) to use with the mousse. After you saturate the child's head with the mousse, you need to leave it to soak for 15-30 minutes, and it will start to drip down the child's neck, causing discomfort, drama, and tears (don't ask me how I know this). The adult shower caps that I purchased were too big for my girl's heads, but by twisting the back and securing it with a clothespin, it held up well enough for them to walk around and pass the time. 
  • Don't bother using the lice comb that's included in the box. While it will take out the dead lice, it won't do a thing for the nits (never fear, I have a comb for that too!). 
  • Use a LOT of mousse. Seriously - do not skimp! If necessary, do two treatments, 1-week apart. We did this with both of our girls, but for the youngest it was more of a "peace of mind" for Mom than an actual need since the lice were dead after the first round. With our 6 year old "lice party" head, we didn't use enough of the mousse (or leave it on for long enough) the first time - a mistake which we corrected the second time with total success.

THE LICE ARE DEAD, NOW LET'S DEAL WITH THE NITS...

"Liendres" (Spanish for nits) - do nits by any other name cause the same amount of angst? Yes, they do. In Costa Rica, we did what all parents are told to do when it comes to lice and nits - WASH EVERYTHING. EVERY DAY. Guess what? We still had lice, and we still had nits. While I didn't stop washing their laundry in hot water, after a month, I stopped washing their sheets daily because it clearly wasn't stopping anything and it was drastically increasing my stress level, not to mention our water bill! 

Throughout the lice treatment and subsequent nit removal phase, we tried everything to loosen the glue that held the nits (alive and dead) to the hair. We doused them in a vinegar/water mix, we soaked them in straight vinegar, we sprayed them with nit-removal aids, and then there were the combs. Plastic combs in Costa Rica (total joke), metal combs in the U.S. (a close second on the joke front). After painstakingly combing through the hair and watching the comb go right over the nits without even nudging them, I might have shed a few tears. I knew what lay before me, and it was a path I didn't have the patience to walk... nit picking

After spending hours (some 10+ hours over 4 days with our 6 year old the FINAL time we picked) using my fingernails to physically remove HUNDREDS of dead nits, the Hubs gave me a golden gift... the Nit-Free Terminator Comb. I brushed that sucker down through my girl's hair, and watched as nits floated off of it in my bowl of hot water. I've never seen a prettier sight. 


Let me be clear - this doesn't totally remove the need for some hands-on removal, but if I'd had it a few weeks sooner, it would have made a HUGE difference and saved me a load of time. While there may be no way around doing at least some nit picking (especially if you have a child with a head-full of nits, like I did), this comb is a MUST HAVE in your lice treatment kit.

{If you're wondering what makes this one better than the "free" combs in the kits, the free combs are slick metal, and this comb has teeth that grab the nits.}

I NEVER WANT THIS TO HAPPEN TO ME...

This was the stance that I took when it came to lice, which is why I did a lot of research before we left for Costa Rica and ended up traveling with Fairy Tales Rosemary Repel Lice Prevention Shampoo and Conditioner. I started using it as my regular shampoo/conditioner before we left, and I haven't stopped using it in the last four months... and NO. LICE. These kids are all over me, and the party head girl is my most snugly, so I give it two huge thumbs up from a prevention point of view.

{Note: It comes in 32 oz. bottles, as well as a more convenient, travel friendly 12 oz. and 8 oz.}

You may be wondering why I didn't use it with the kids to prevent the lice from ever starting, and you'd be totally justified in asking that question. The fact is, I purchased the (pricey) 32 oz. bottle and took it with us, but I also learned a very important, new-mom/new-mom-of-kids-who-have-never-controlled-their-own-shampoo-before lesson... kids who have never had access to shampoo should not be given free access to said shampoo or 32 oz. will be gone in less than 1 week. {gag} Talk about money down the drain! But also an important lesson learned by this new mom.

Now that it's been a few months, the kids are getting better about moderation and self-regulation. With the nits/lice finally banished - forever, Lord, please - I have ordered two more 32 oz. bottles with pumps and we'll try this again. While the 32 oz. bottles are not inexpensive, it has been worth every penny to me not to have to deal with lice on my own head, while trying to rid my kids of theirs.

NOTE: Fairy Tales also has a leave-in conditioner (something I use anyway because of my girls hair type) that helps repel lice, so while I haven't yet tested it personally, I'm looking forward to giving it a shot this school year.

SO WHAT'S THE BOTTOM LINE?

Everyone, or so it seems, has a horror story about lice, and everyone has a different, "no fail" solution for getting rid of them and keeping them at bay. I know people who swear by the mayonnaise treatment... and while it didn't work for my kid, that doesn't mean it might not work for yours. Google is a tremendous wealth of ideas and information (some good, some bad, some totally wacky), and Amazon has 2 day shipping to help out frazzled, lice-infested households like ours. Rosemary smells good, and I'm all for chemical mousse if it works when nothing else does. Tea tree oil is a go-to by many moms, and I even got a recipe from the school nurse for a shampoo mixture made of vinegar, Dawn (dish washing soap), and tea tree oil that she says someone else swears by.

The bottom line is that this is what worked for us, in our situation. If you are at your wits end, as we were (and yes, I DID, in fact, cry. HARD. when they called me earlier this month to tell me that "party head" still had nits - even if they were dead), then you'll try anything. Hopefully this post gives you some new ideas to add to the list.


May your school year (and home) be lice free in 2017!

10/21/16

It's Still HIS Story

Forgive the briefness of this post, but since I just sat here for the last 5 minutes and tried to make my brain work in order to come up with a title, it's probably best to keep it short and sweet. The last three weeks have been mentally and emotionally exhausting, but we can see His hand throughout the process - working on us, working on the children, working in the lives of all involved.

After our meeting with those in authority on Wednesday, we felt like we were finally being heard (thanks to the use of an official translator). We spent yesterday with the kids again - and despite some boundary pushing, it went well - and then picked them up this morning and headed to child services for another meeting.

While Peter stayed out in the hall (attempting to corral the younger four), I met with the social worker, our oldest gal (Tica #1), and the translator for an hour and a half. We were able to have a conversation that was productive, accurate, and clarifying, the end result being that I felt that our position was acknowledged and accepted, Tica #1 understood our position, and we found middle ground.

Bottom Line: They're coming home to the condo to live with us on Monday, and we'll start U.S. Embassy meetings next week. We have a new court date for November 3rd, and we could be flying home by the end of November.

Just In Case You're Wondering: We have had a number of larger expenses that we were unable to foresee, so if you feel inclined to donate, everything will go to help cover those items, as well as our extended time in Costa Rica. Thank you!

The next chapter is just beginning...

It is well.




10/14/16

Walking in Love

After everything came apart at the seams on Wednesday, I tossed and turned that night until I pulled myself out of bed at 3:30 in the morning and headed out to the couch to talk to Jesus. I talked, I cried, I read the book of Philippians. I prayed for wisdom and discernment for us, as new parents. I prayed for each one of the kids and their various situations as we now know them. I prayed for God's guidance, and for the "wisdom" of man to be overcome by true wisdom from God. That in everything, He would receive glory and recognition for the story that He continues to write. 

After an hour and a half, Peter joined the conversation. We talked about what we needed to do. I sought his wisdom and experience as a brother in Christ, and together, we were able to sharpen one another and come to a mutual choice that yesterday we would "reboot" the situation. 

Unlike most adoptive parents, we haven't spent years dwelling on the desire to have children, and in the 12 days since we have met our kids, no magic parental switch has been turned on. Regarding our desires and personalities, we are still the same people that we were 13 days ago... and we have made a lot of mistakes because of that. But yesterday morning, we made the CHOICE to do the one thing that we know Christ has commanded and empowered us to do... love them because He loves them. Show them humanly imperfect love because He has shown us His perfect love. 


We have one opportunity with these kids - and possibly less than that if the adoption of these five falls through (we are still waiting on a final decision from those in authority over it) - but for whatever time we have with them, we have CHOSEN to "take captive" every negative thought about this process, behaviors, feelings, and actions. We CHOOSE - daily, hourly, millisecond by millisecond - to love these children (and those involved in the process) because He first loved us. We CHOOSE to find victory in Christ and to walk in the way of Love.

Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and WALK IN THE WAY OF LOVE, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
{Ephesians 5:1-2}

10/9/16

In Oceans Deep

We've officially stepped off of Facebook from our personal account for a variety of reasons, but I wanted to jump on here to share some neat things that have been happening in the midst of the hurricane that is our lives at the moment.

We went back to the International Baptist Church this morning, despite not feeling good and not really wanting to go. WE NEEDED TO BE THERE. Oh, what encouragements through the songs we sang with our fellow brothers and sisters, followed by spot on preaching. We are so thankful we were obedient in not giving up the fellowship of fellow Believers today, because God used it to bring refreshment, renewed vision, and conviction.

Here's where we are at this moment - all thanks and praise to GOD! Whatever the outcome, we want to be in the will of God. We believe He has brought us here, we know He is writing this story, and we want to be faithful through whatever storm is coming. This morning I was reading Matthew 8:23-26 and was struck by so many things...
"Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, 'Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!' He replied, 'You of little faith, why are you so afraid?' Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm."
  • SUDDENLY the storm came. I cannot tell you how many times we have said this week, something to the effect of, "We never saw this coming!" That's how storms are - in life and on lakes. You cannot plan for them, you don't see them... but you have to deal with them when they arrive.
  • LORD, SAVE US! WE'RE GOING TO DROWN! And again, how many times I have cried out to God this week with similar wording. I don't want to do this, I am afraid, it is hard, SAVE ME, I'm DROWNING! Crying out isn't wrong, but it's the follow up and obedience that matters.
  • YOU OF LITTLE FAITH, WHY ARE YOU SO AFRAID? He either called us to this, or He didn't. We believe He did. We are either going to be faithful in the storm, finding strength in Him, or we are not. We want to choose faithfulness during the midst of the storm.
This week will be a turning point in many, many lives. One of the verses that kept coming to my mind during our hours of meetings last week was Exodus 14:14...


Over and over and over, that verse came flying to mind when we were in the middle of all of this on Thursday and Friday. I told Peter about it, but mentioned it to no one else. Yesterday, an old friend from Peru (hi, Annemarie!) posted on my request for prayer on our 7 Koens Facebook page... one thing: the verse from Exodus 14:14. Peter and I both sat there in shock, since I hadn't mentioned that nudge at all - BUT GOD KNEW. Isn't it amazing to see how He brings encouragement from the Body, nudging people, showing how we are all connected through His Spirit? We choose to believe this... that He will fight for us, we need only to be still. 

We do not yet know what will happen with the adoption of these specific kids, but we continue to trust that God has us here for a reason, and we want to be obedient in following Him. All you can really do for us is PRAY (and we love receiving Scriptural encouragement too!). Pray for all of us. It will be a storm of a week, and there will be many more storms to come, but we are so thankful that Jesus is at work in our lives, and in the midst of the storm.

P.S. (And Please Do Read It!) There is so much going on - far more than I share online - so before assumptions are made or advice is offered, please keep in mind that we have not shared even 1% of the details. I have been, and continue to be, selective in what I share, possibly to my detriment if it misleads you, and for that I apologize. Please know that we aren't just flying off the handle on things, but that much more goes into all of this than what we can or should share on Facebook or the blog. :)